Okay, let’s keep this short and to the point: we are playing Barcelona at the Camp Nou. For a visiting team to get a result there, three things need to happen, only one of which you can really control:
(1) you have to stay focused at all times and play your best game.
Villarreal has come undone before through quick free kicks (Xavi in 2010 is the example that comes to mind, quickly restarting play and slipping a pass to Messi while we were still waiting for the ref to blow his whistle to restart), Messi brilliance (he’s rescued them on numerous occasions), fluky own-goals and bounces (the infamous Dani Alves ‘banana’ game in 2014).
(2) you need Barcelona to be off their game.
Sure, you can—ideally—control and frustrate Barcelona, but to be honest, with the front three they have, it is hard to play 90 minutes without them having at least a handful of good chances. You have to survive those.
(3) the referee has to be on top of his game.
This has been a problem for us before—our last visit to the Camp Nou we stayed close until a Neymar goal at the hour mark, then shortly after a penalty call. And let’s not even talk about the Piqué handball that was missed, or scads of others (for that matter, let’s not talk about the Pique handball goal in 2011, either). You have to accept going in that Barca will get a lot of calls, you just have to hope they are not significant ones.
All-time record: We have not won at the Camp Nou since March 2008, when Jon Dahl Tomasson scored the gamewinner after a Senna penalty and a Xavi goal. (We also won the home tie that year with two Senna penalties). Record at Barcelona, 3-4-9.
Comments: We typically play Barca close (of the last 10 matches, only 2 were decided by more than one goal, and we have drawn the last two in Vila-real). You’d think at some point we’d get lucky, wouldn’t you?
But this year we have some injuries to consider—Bruno is out, so look for Rodri and Trigueros—who typically plays well against Barca—in midfield, and Ruiz is out, so look for Musacchio and hopefully Alvaro, but maybe Bonera, back deep.
I have to say once you get past Barca’s front three this is not quite as imposing a Barca team as in some recent seasons, though I agree with Marcos Senna that Andres Iniesta (newly returned to training and expected to play tomorrow) should ‘keep playing until he only has one leg’. He is simply incomparable.
Prediction: I am going to say 2-2 for no discernible reason other than I feel it. Bakambu and Roberto Soriano have been excellent of late and I just wonder if we mightn’t be able to score a couple this time. I’d be happy with a point, however we get it.