The guys over at Barca Blaugranes are always fun to talk to, and we've been throwing questions at each other in preparation for the game on Saturday. Both websites have had a busy week!
If you'd like to see what they asked us, and how we responded, go here. And now for responses to our questions. Thanks Arron!
(1) Which Villarreal side do you expect on Saturday? The one that always challenges Barca, or the other, mauled 5-0 in jornada 2?
I am a firm believer that the 5-0 result in Jornada Two was a one-off, after all, this was a combination of many things that cannot happen again. Villarreal maybe rested on their laurels just a little, expecting to match Barcelona as they have done previously, but were left wanting. Barcelona employed the 3-4-3 for the first time in competitive action, catching everyone off guard really. Factor in Thiago having his best (competitive) game in a Barcelona shirt, the impact of the two new signings, and really we have an unrepeatable result. After all, a 3-4-3 will no longer be a surprise etc.
I am fully expecting a good showing from the Yellow Submarine, especially after that 3-0 win over Sporting. My only concern if I were a Villarreal fan would be how José Molina will approach the game: does he go for an attacking line-up to try and claim three points or does he focus on keeping Barcelona off the scoresheet. In my opinion, given the match in midweek, Villarreal should opt for the latter.
(2) Given the injuries to Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez, what sort of lineup and formation should we expect?
Well, Guardiola has actually sent out a pretty clear indication by including B team winger Cristian Tello in the squad. If he was heading down the 3-4-3 route, he would have left Tello out for Alves to play right-forward, so it's gonna be a 4-3-3. Once you consider the amount of football the squad has played in recent weeks, with more to come against the likes of Valencia, there will be rotation. Carles Puyol will probably drop to the bench with Javier Mascherano stepping into central defense, while Eric Abidal may also be rested with Adriano taking his place at left-back.
The midfield is a difficult one to predict. For example, Xavi has played a lot of football without a rest, so I think he will drop to the bench with Thiago his natural replacement, and with Iniesta out, it could be either Sergi Roberto or Cesc to fill the gap. We all know Fabregas starts in that situation. Offensively, Isaac Cuenca is a simple substitute for Sanchez on the right-wing, while Pedro proved his worth on Wednesday. He appears ready for a starting berth on the left-wing, with Messi the only gap left! That's just my prediction though.
(3) Marcos Senna said he hoped this week's game would go to extra time and tire your players out. Well, that didn't happen, but Madrid pressed and harassed (perhaps fouled) you guys all over the pitch. How do you think this might affect you in this game?
3) I think Senna might have been thinking of himself a little there, does he even have the legs to play 90 minutes against a Barcelona midfield?
Regardless, he is spot on, that game will have taken a lot out of the team. However, for all the tiring legs, the side now has a point to prove after conceding those two goals to Real Madrid, and with the league title on the line in virtually every game we play, it is paramount that it doesn't affect them. At the end of the day, this is a squad that is used to the two games a week scenario, and it has been proven twice that they flourish under such conditions. If anything, Barcelona may tire towards the end, but that could motivate them to end the game early. I say if you guys get to half-time with the scores level (or better), you have an excellent chance of snatching all three points.
Don't forget, those of you tweeting tomorrow, use #VILBAR as a hashtag while you're watching the game, before and after. Endavant Villarreal!!