Entering the match in top form, Barcelona will host Villarreal in a Copa del Rey semifinal matchup on Wednesday at the Camp Nou. The match is the first in a two-leg Spanish Cup semifinal faceoff between two sides near the top of the table in La Liga.
Barcelona, currently one point behind Real Madrid for first place in La Liga, have won nine-straight across all competitions, scoring an amazing 34 goals. The Catalans have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to scorers with forward Lionel Messi (33 goals in all competition), forward Neymar (26) and striker Luis Suárez (21). Villarreal are a capable opponent, currently in sixth in the Spanish Primera. Although Barca recently stopped an 18-game Yellow Submarine unbeaten streak, beating Marcelino Garcia Toral’s side 3-2 at the Camp Nou on Feb. 1.
“We will need to be more consistent this time,” Barcelona manager Luis Enrique said in a press conference. “We can’t allow them to have as many chances as they did in the league game.”
Barcelona’s most recent match was a comfortable 5-2 road league victory over mid-table Athletic Bilbao. Messi, Neymar and Suarez all scored. Villarreal most recently won at home against last-placed La Liga opponent Granada 2-0. Yellow Submarine’s top scorer across all competition, Gerard Moreno (16), added a last-minute goal to secure a victory that at times looked in doubt. Toral commented on his side’s handicap when facing powerhouse Barcelona, especially considering the salaries of the Messi, Neymar, Suárez trifecta.
“Their three attackers are worth seven or eight times Villarreal’s annual budget,” Toral said in a press conference. “We are going to try to make sure they have a bad day.”
The last match between the two sides was close, despite the salary disparities. Barca came back from behind twice and eventually won 3-2 on a 55th minute Messi goal. Barcelona controlled the game, having 69 percent of possession and registering 19 shots (seven on goal) to Villarreal’s nine shots (three on goal).
Barcelona will look to win the game more comfortably and take a solid lead from the home, opening leg of the Spanish Cup semifinal.
“We have to play with the same kind of intensity that we would in the league," Enrique said in the press conference. "That means that our only plan will be to win the match."
Barca advanced to the semifinal comfortably with a 4-2 aggregate score over Atlético Madrid. Villarreal advanced with a pair of 1-0 wins (2-0 aggregate) over Getafe.
Prediction: Barcelona’s star-studded front three of Messi, Neymar and Suárez seemed to have found an attacking rhythm, which might be too much for Villarreal to handle.
Barcelona 3 – 1 Villarreal
Kickoff time: 2 p.m. ET
TV channel: beIN Sports
Live Stream: beIN Sports Connect