Barcelona can climb to second in the La Liga table with a win against Villarreal tonight but it won't come easy.
Barcelona will ideally want to win all their matches from here on until the final day of La Liga if they are to become champions once again. They currently sit third in the table, five points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid, but have a game in hand.
Barcelona will have their work cut out for them against Villarreal, who are seventh in the table with 49 points. They can move up to fifth with a win tonight. The Catalans have a few injury concerns to negotiate as well. But there is no doubt that Ronald Koeman and co. will try to put their best foot forward.
Without further ado, let's take a look at how Barcelona are expected to lineup against Villarreal tonight.
How will Barcelona lineup against Villarreal?
No big surprises here. Barcelona will go with their reliable no. 1 in goal. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has kept 10 cleansheets in 25 appearances in La Liga this season and continues to be an assured presence between the sticks for the Catalans.
He very recently kept a clean sheet in the Copa Del Rey final and Koeman will be expecting more of the same from his goalkeeper as Barcelona head into their most important set of fixtures of the 2020-21 season.
Ronald Koeman has chosen to go with a three-at-the-back system in recent times and it has worked out pretty well for them. In the game against Getafe, the Barcelona manager seemed quite displeased with Oscar Mingueza galloping forward when the score was 3-2 and immediately took him off and gave him the cold shoulder as he walked past him.
But Koeman has since played down talks of a rift between himself and the player and has said that the young defender has been having a 'great season'. As such, Koeman is expected to go with Oscar Mingueza at the back once again.
He will be partnered with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet. Gerard Pique's return from injury has been a major boost for the Cules. Lenglet had a pretty ordinary first half of the season but he has turned it around in the second half of the season and has become a solid presence at the back.
Barcelona have scored nine goals in their last two matches and their control over the midfield realms has a lot to do with it. Gerard Pique's return to the fray has got Frenkie De Jong playing in midfield once again and the versatile Dutchman has been in fine form.
Sergio Busquets will once again be the pivot in midfield. Young Pedri, who has had a great breakout season, will be deployed in central midfield slightly ahead of Sergio Busquets. Pedri will be partnered with Frenkie De Jong and the trio will have their hands full dealing with the likes of Daniel Parejo, Trigueros and Capoue.
Sergi Roberto has returned from injury and taken up his position on the right-wing against Getafe. But as it has only been a couple of days since Barcelona's game against Getafe, Ronald Koeman might not want to risk the Spaniard. Sergino Dest is likely to be deployed on the right side as the right wing-back.
An ever-reliable Jordi Alba will be playing on the other side at left wing-back and his contribution will be crucial to Barcelona's chances tonight.
Ousmane Dembele was left out of the game against Getafe with a pelvic problem. But he has now been cleared by the medical team and has made it to the matchday squad. However, Ronald Koeman might not want to rush him, particularly after the Cules did a good job in his absence against Getafe.
Koeman is expected to partner Lionel Messi with Antoine Griezmann up front. Lionel Messi has been in sublime form and will be Barcelona's main threat going forward as he has been for a decade or more. Messi bagged a brace against Getafe and could have easily scored a hat-trick had he chosen to be selfish.
Lionel Messi gave a 93rd minute penalty to his strike partner Antoine Griezmann who seemed ecstatic to convert from the spot and get on the scoresheet himself. Messi realized that a goal would help boost Antoine Griezmann's confidence and the Frenchman ran over to the Argentine to thank him after scoring from the spot.
Little gestures like that go a long way towards building trust and chemistry in a football team and that is exactly the kind of understanding that Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman would want his players to have with each other. It also proved to us why Lionel Messi is the right person to be leading the side.
Barcelona predicted XI (3-5-2): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Oscar Mingueza, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet; Sergino Dest, Frenkie De Jong, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Jordi Alba; Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi