Barcelona will travel to the Estadio de la Caramica this weekend to face in-form Villarreal as they look to resume slipping their title-defense.
The hosts head into this game second in the La Liga form table, having taken 16 points from the last 18 available. Since the restart, only Real Madrid have taken more points from games than the ‘Yellow Submarines’ who sit in 5th place.
With Sevilla in 4th suffering a recent wobble, Javier Calleja will be looking to take home all three points and push for a top-four finish.
Barca remain unbeaten in seven games but have seen their two-point lead before the lockdown turn to a four-point deficit in a space of two weeks. The Catalans head into the tie without a win in their last two games with frustrating 2:2draws with Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid, allowing Real Madrid to steal top spot.
Quique Setien has a fight to keep his job in his hands with the dressing room turned against him and his passionate assistant. Only a win here will boost his chances of surviving the axe beyond this summer.
Javier Calleja has as many as four players on the treatment table as Sofian Chakla, Vicente Iborra are doubts for this tie, while Ramiro Funes Mori and Ramiro Guerra remain long term injury absentees.
Ousmane Dembele and Frankie de Jong remain the only injury absentees for Barcelona.
Head to head
The last five meetings between both teams has seen Barca win four times with a 4:4 draw in-between.
Villarreal last five competitive games: WWDWW
Barcelona last five competitive games: DDWDW
There could have been no better time for Villarreal to face Barca than now. With the hosts in fine form and their visitors facing internal crises, they head into this game not as outsiders but equal if not greater in strength than their visitors.
The Yellow Submarines have won five oftheir last six league games with Real Madrid the only team perfroming better than they in the league.
Since after the restart, they have steadily climbed the table and now sit in fifth place with four games to go. In that period, they five wins and a draw, scoring nine times and conceding two. In fact, only Sevilla in that period have been able to bridge their back line as they have kept five clean sheets in six games.
Barca meanwhile find themselves in an ugly situation with their perennial rivals Real Madrid stealing a march on them and topping the tree now with four points.
They have struggled in recent times as they have gone two away games without a win. Pressure continues to mount on Setien who is yet to find his winning formula in attack with Antionio Griezmann yet to record a goal in nine league games.
Their last two outings saw them throw away early leads with their opponents in both games coming from behind to snatch away points from them. First-half goals remain a theme for them, but they recently are finding it difficult to hold on to leads.
They will hope to capitalize on their head to head record against Villarreal of whom they have beaten four times in the last five meetings with a goal ratio of 15:6.
Over 2.5 Goals @ 4/7
Lionel Messi anytime scorer @ 5/6
Both teams to score/Yes @ 4/7