We asked our friends over at Barca Blaugranes to answer a couple of questions for us before the match. Our questions are in bold, their responses below. Head over to their blog to see what they asked us about Villarreal and how we answered!
What will be the Barcelona starting line-up for our game? Specifically, will Cesc be a False 9 or midfield?
As you know Barcelona is currently going through one of the worst injury bugs in recent memory. Messi, Valdes and Alves will surely miss the game and the fact that Adriano is suspended for the game really isn't good news. But, thankfully, Alba is back from his injury stint so we're set at left-back. Montoya, who was very impressive against Celtic will start at right-back while Pinto will be in net. At center-back things get a bit blurry. There have been rumors that Pique and Bartra will start and I personally would agree with that choice as Mascherano is going through one of his worst stretches since joining Barcelona.
In midfield expect Busquets and Iniesta. The third member of the midfield will probably be Xavi, but with him playing a lot, and I mean a lot, lately I would rather see him on the bench and Cesc starting alongside Iniesta, but don't expect that to happen. The other reason why I would rather see Cesc start in the midfield is because that would mean he won't start as a false nine where he hasn't impressed since Messi went down. Barça's strongest front three right now is Alexis-Neymar-Pedro and I would prefer to see them start, but if Cesc does start as the false nine expect Pedro to be the odd man out.
The majority of the Barca fans seem to be unhappy with how the board is handling the team. What has gone wrong? Or is the majority totally wrong?
There have been many things that have angered fans when it comes to the board. Rosell gets the most of the bad press with his general "sliminess", but Zubizarreta should also get blamed more than he does. Zubi has done a terrible job extending contracts, especially this season when Iniesta's extension has been a talking point for the last two or three months. I mean the dude gets paid to do this stuff and hasn't managed extend neither one of Iniesta, Pique, Montoya or Bartra. And that kind of ineptitude is what personally bothers me the most with this board. Also, the way Rosell handled the Abidal situation was simply shameful, even if the farewell ceremony was very well prepared. But you have to give them credit for making the signing of the summer when they landed Neymar.
What about the centerbacks? Yet again the summer passed without any reinforcement here--how has playing Mascherano back there worked out?
Ah, the center-backs... The fact is that when your wish list is one man long and reads: Thiago Silva, it is just another sign of the above mentioned ineptitude of the board. Silva was never a realistic target, not after Rosell imposed a transfer budget of €50 million. But sooner rather than later Barcelona will have to buy a center back; who that will be is anybody's guess. Pique has been hit and miss ever since he started seeing Shakira, Mascherano is going through a rough patch, but he has been a bright spot many times before so a rise in form could be in the books. And everybody's favorite captain, Puyol, can't seem to stay healthy - and when he is healthy he couldn't keep up in a foot race with a turtle. But young Bartra has been a real bright spot in the back line and he seems to be getting better and better. Martino has been slowly working him in this season and Bartra is slowly proving he has a bright future in Barcelona.
What's your prediction for the match?
I obviously have to go with Barcelona winning....the score 3-1.