Barcelona endured a disappointing return from the winter break after suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night and it has to be said that the Catalan giants were not at their best during the encounter.
While Barcelona still have an opportunity to turn things around in the second leg of the Copa Del Rey, the same luxury will not be provided in La Liga and as a result, Luis Enrique will be demanding his players to claim a victory when they square off against Villarreal away from home in what should prove to be a very difficult encounter for the defending Spanish champions.
Here is the strongest possible Barcelona lineup for the clash against Villarreal –
Marc-Andre ter Stegen did not enjoy the best of games against Athletic last time out and although the German was not at fault for the goals, he was not able to inspire confidence from his defenders.
A clash against a dangerous Villarreal side this weekend will surely prove to be another test for ter Stegen and it will be interesting to see how he performs during the encounter.
Luis Enrique was able to field his strongest possible backline for the match against Athletic by handing the quartet of Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Sergio Roberto and Jordi Alba starts but disappointingly, all four players did not perform to their full potential on the night.
It is unlikely that Enrique will be changing things around for the clash against Villarreal on Sunday but one can be certain that the four defenders need to perform much better in order for Barcelona to avoid another potential upset.
Sergio Busquets has been very inconsistent so far this season and he did not enjoy the best of games in midweek. Busquets will surely want to make amends as soon as possible for his poor display and will be lining up alongside Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in midfield on Sunday.
Iniesta and Rakitic were marginally better than Busquets against Athletic but the duo need to raise their game against Villarreal as they are capable of doing so much more damage to the opposition team on their day.
Neymar and Lionel Messi put in strong performances in the Copa Del Rey clash last time out but Luis Suarez was surprisingly quiet throughout the game.
The trio will be lining up in attack once again this weekend and they will surely want to help Barcelona get over the disappointment of midweek by contributing in front of goal.