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VILLARREAL-BARCELONA

Villarreal-Barcelona LaLiga Santander: match report, goals


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Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Villarreal vs FC Barcelona - Estadio de la Ceramica, Villarreal, Spain - December 10, 2017   Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their second goal          REUTERS/Heino Kalis
HEINO KALISREUTERS

Villarreal 2-0 Barcelona: match report

Barcelona restored their lead at the top of La Liga to five points as Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi struck in the final 20 minutes to edge out 10-man Villarreal 2-0 on Sunday.

Daniel Raba's red card on the hour mark for a wild lunge on Sergio Busquets handed Barca the initiative.

And their pressure told when Suarez rounded off a fine team move before Messi blasted home a second to get the Catalans back to winning ways after successive draws with Valencia and Celta Vigo.

"In the second half after the sending-off we had more chances to win the game," Suarez told Movistar TV.

"They played a very good game tactically and we weren't precise enough, but in the second half we came out with a different mentality to take the three points."

Valencia remain Barca's closest challengers five points back, but Atletico Madrid also maintained their title charge with a 1-0 win at Real Betis to stay six points off the top.

Real Madrid are eight points behind in fourth and Barca will have the chance to go into El Clasico away at Real in two weeks' time with an 11-point lead over their rivals.

Barca host Deportivo la Coruna next weekend, whilst Madrid are in action at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Villarreal vs Barcelona: as it happened

Villarreal vs Barcelona live stream online: match preview

Villarreal host league leaders Barcelona in the Estádio de la Ceramica with both sides looking to arrest a brief blip on an otherwise uninterrupted march towards their respective goals for the season. The Yellow Submarine have been in excellent form with Javi Calleja taking over on the tiller from Fran Escribá but have suffered back-to-back defeats against Sevilla and Leganés having led in both only to lose after late flurries of goals from the opposition.

Barça still lead the table, with a five-point cushion over second-placed Valencia, but have dropped points in their last two Liga outings against Los Che and Celta.

Both sides were able to field second-string teams in Europe in midweek with their jobs done already done with an eye on Sunday’s game, which has ended in a draw in the last two seasons but that the home side have not triumphed in since 2007.

Villarreal

The Submarine are in a precarious position in the league, seven points adrift of Sevilla in fifth and with a chasing pack including unlikely pursuers in Leganés and Getafe and more familiar rivals Celta and Real Sociedad. Despite being such a rarity in Spain – a club run sensibly and within clear budgetary criteria – Villarreal have become accustomed to dining at one of the European tables and a sixth-placed finish is the minimum requirement for Calleja – a run in both current cup competitions purely a bonus.

Another summer of excellent business on the east coast saw the arrivals of Enes Ünal, Rúben Semedo, Pablo Fornals and Carlos Bacca on a shoestring but it has been Calleja’s effect on one of the club’s existing assets that fired the Submarine’s season since he took over in late September. Cédric Bakambu has banged in 14 goals in 19 games this season, 11 of them in the two months that Calleja has been in charge – the same number the Democratic Republic of the Congo striker managed in the whole of 2016-17.

I still have a long way to go until I’m at the level of Luis Suárez or Karim Benzema,” Bakambu said ahead of the game, having never been on the winning side against Barcelona. “But I still have plenty of time to improve.”

Calleja noted that after suffering a raft of injuries in recent weeks the return of some key personnel, such as Carlos Bacca, Samu Castillejo and Semedo, “means this game has come at a good time.”

Nobody has beaten Barcelona [this season], but we can’t think that we can’t beat them. We’ll go out with the idea of winning of the game and giving our fans something to cheer about.”

It took a 90th-minute Leo Messi goal to prevent that happening last season, but Calleja said there would be no special plan to put the stoppers on the Argentina captain: “The idea is to try and stop him collectively, with the whole team playing as a team.”

Barcelona

Ernesto Valverde has a few problems at the back going into Sunday’s game with both Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano out injured but Thomas Vermaelen came through the midweek Champions League game against Sporting unscathed and will partner Gerard Piqué in the heart of the back four.

The Barça boss will be keen to maintain his unbeaten record in Vila-real and may elect to play the more tactically astute Sergi Roberto at right back in place of Nelson Semedo, whose attacking instincts can leave space at the back that in the absence of Umtiti may be difficult to plug.

Question marks remain over the fitness of captain Andrés Iniesta but the Barça boss looks likely to play the same formation he did against Valencia away, drafting Paulinho into a midfield four with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Iniesta if fit, playing behind a front two of Leo Messi and Luis Suárez.

Messi, Jordi Alba, Paulinho and Busquets were all on the bench for the match against Sporting as Valverde shuffled his pack in the knowledge that Villarreal are more than capable of giving his side a torrid evening on Sunday.

Villarreal vs Barcelona live stream online: selected betting odds

Barcelona are favourites for the win at 4/7 with Villarreal priced at 9/2. A repeat of last season’s 1-1 score line pays out at 8/1 while in the scorer stakes Messi is available at 13/5 to open the scoring while Bakambu is at 6/1 to strike first.

Bet on Villarreal vs Barcelona

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