Disappointing to be playing Barcelona in midweek, but here we are. And not the best time to visit the Camp Nou, either: Barca are coming off a 2-0 loss to Granada and are only in eighth place in the league. Both Luis Suarez and Leo Messi have had injuries—Messi should make his first start on Tuesday.
Don’t feel too bad for Barca, though. They have only played two home matches so far (Betis, Valencia) but have won both by the same 5-2 scoreline. It’s been different on the road, and the Barca fans are wasting no time in calling for Valverde’s head, demanding new players. etc. Yes, a number of their stars are now on the wrong side of 30; this includes Messi, Suarez, Piqué, Rakitic, Vidal, Busquets. But one bad game does not a season make, and I have to think they will want to make a statement against us tomorrow.
Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti are out for them, Dembélé makes the squad, Rakitic is dropped. But with Griezmann, de Jong, Nelson Semedo, and the 16 year-old Ansu Fati around, among others, I think they have plenty to choose from.
Villarreal: Team news is that Manu Morlanes and Andrei Ratiu come in, Mario Gaspar, Manu Trigueros, Leo Suarez, and Santy Caceres are not included. (we may need to use a Free Santy hashtag soon...). Iborra and Peña are evidently both OK.
When we visited the Camp Nou last season I pointed out that to win here, you need to hit Barcelona on an off-day, and play well yourself. Barca weren’t that impressive that day, actually, but Villarreal were off their game too—they would return home and blow a two-goal lead to Celta, and Calleja’s first tenure as coach would soon end.
All-time record: 3-4-12 in the Camp Nou, our last win coming in March 2008. Santi Cazorla played all of that 2-1 win. (Note that before Leo Messi became a regular starter, we were 3-2-4 in the Camp Nou. Since the “Age of Messi” really began in the 2008-09 season, we are 0-2-8).
Prediction: OK, my heart says 2-2, but realistically I can see Barca winning 3-1, 4-2, something like that, if they are at their best and full of anger after Saturday. Hopefully they won’t be :)