Game preview: Barça vs Villareal

Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports
Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports / Alex Caparros/GettyImages

FC Barcelona finally play at home again. After two crushing defeats in two weeks, Xavi has been in a somber mood as of late, stating that the team has got a bright future whether he is the coach or not. It's quite disappointing overall, in many different aspects, but the season is not yet over in perhaps the two most important competitions - La Liga and the Champions League.

Barcelona find themselves 8 points off the top ahead of Saturday's match against Villareal. Real Madrid and Girona, in a bit of a surprise, continue to headline the La Liga table. Having already played against Marcelino's team this season, fans can be sure to expect goals - probably a lot of them.

Villareal are a bit desperate, as they haven't won a match yet since the calendar turned to 2024. They've got firepower going forward, which Barça will have to look out for. Álex Baena and Alexander Sørloth are no slouches.

These are two teams that have had defensive issues all year, with the previous game between the two ending in a 4-3 victory for Barça. Villareal sit at 14th in the table, so in theory this should be a win for Xavi's side - but we all know that nothing is a given with this team. They've still got significant injuries, but they may be getting João Cancelo back. Not a moment too soon either, as it seems Alejandro Balde will be out for quite some time, if not the rest of the season. Marc-André ter Stegen has also rejoined training Friday, but most likely won't be ready for Saturday.

Xavi may be forced yet again to give the youngsters minutes; this isn't necessarily a bad thing, however. They've all stepped up to the plate and answered the call admirably, especially Héctor Fort. Lamine Yamal is good, we already knew that - but Fort and Pau Cubarsí are way ahead of schedule. Vitor Roque, according to several reports, is being brought along slowly, which is probably a good idea.

Expected lineups

Barcelona: Iñaki Pena, João Cancelo, Jules Koundé, Ronald Araujo, Héctor Fort, İlkay Gündoğan, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Lamine Yamal, Robert Lewandowski, Ferran Torres.

Villareal: Filip Jörgensen, Kiko, Eric Bailly, Jorge Cuenca, Alberto Moreno, Ilias Akhomach, Santi Comesaña, Francis Coquelin, Álex Baena, Gerard Moreno, Alexander Sørloth.

It's absolutely vital that Barça win this game, and win comfortably. An injection of good vibes is desperately needed, and a performance like the 5-0 against Betis earlier this year would do wonders. Of course, we can't hope for quite that much, but it would be nice.

Xavi must be feeling the pressure amidst the media circus that follows this team everywhere they go. It's hard to watch. Three points and a return to winning ways and good football - that's what Barça need. They may leak goals, but so do the visitors. This could easily be another 4-3 match.