LaLiga: Villarreal vs Barcelona preview

League leaders Barcelona face a tall hurdle in their race towards the title as they visit relegation-threatened Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica on Tuesday evening. The reverse fixture was played in December and Barcelona won it 2-0 with goals from Gerard Pique and Carles Alena. That was the fourth consecutive win for Barcelona over Villarreal, last season the Blaugrana won 5-1 at home and 2-0 away. Barcelona have won eight of the last ten direct matches in all competitions, while Villarreal have last defeated the Blaugrana all the way back in 2008.

Villarreal are hoping for this season to end as soon as possible, and with them above the relegation zone. Last week they suffered a 3-2 defeat at Celta Vigo, throwing away a 2-0 lead at half-time, and that result left them just one point above the relegation zone. Before the international break they qualified for the Europa League quarter-finals with a 5-2 aggregate win over Zenit St. Petersburg, but that achievement would mean nothing if they get relegated from LaLiga. Bruno Soriano, Manu Trigueros, Miguelon and Fuego are injured, but central defender Ramiro Funes Mori returns from suspension.

Barcelona are just six wins away from the league title and it seems that they can't be stopped, even though second-placed Atletico Madrid are ready to pounce if the Blaugrana slip up. Last weekend they secured a 2-0 victory over Espanyol in the local derby and Lionel Messi scored both goals, taking his season tally over 40 goals for the tenth consecutive campaign. He did suffer a minor foot injury but he is expected to play in Tuesday's match, even though the Blaugrana have a Champions League clash coming up next week. Rafinha and Ousmane Dembele are still out injured.

Probable line-ups:

Villarreal: Asenjo - Gonzalez, Mori, Ruiz - Gaspar, Iborra, Cazorla, Caseres, Pedraza - Bacca, Chukwueze

Barcelona: Ter Stegen - Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba - Vidal, Busquets, Arthur - Messi, Suarez, Malcom

My prediction: Barcelona to win 3-1, Villarreal will surely make it difficult but Messi and company should be more than capable of getting all three points here.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Villarreal win - 4.75
Draw - 4.00
Barcelona win - 1.70

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