Top of the table clash
The Camp Nou is the venue tonight (at 22.00) for a gripping encounter between Barça and Vila-real, second and third in the table respectively. Without Piqué or Milito, the big mystery is who will partner Puyol in the centre of defence.
Barcelona (FCB).- After beating Valencia (2-1) and Sevilla (5-0), the Camp Nou is now preparing for another visit by one of the strongest teams in the championship: Vila-real. Both sides are enjoying strong form of late, and neither has lost since September. These two sides, and Real Madrid, have moved away from the pack and this year’s Liga title looks set to be a battle between these three. Tonight’s match is therefore of paramount importance to the ultimate destiny of the coveted trophy.
Five in a row?
FC Barcelona are looking to make it five straight victories in domestic games. They have already made victims of Zaragoza, Sevilla and Getafe in the league and Ceuta in the cup. Now comes the next in a series of games against particularly strong opposition at the Camp Nou, and there is still Real Madrid to come in two weeks time. To get 9 out of 9 against Valencia, Sevilla and Vila-real would be some achievement.
Puyol seeks partner
They will have to do that without either Piqué or Milito, who are suspended and injured respectively. Who will fill in for them? It could be Abidal, who has already played at centre back this season, or it could be one of Barça B’s Fontàs and Bartra. Also missing from the line-up is Jeffren, who has yet to regain full fitness.
Vila-real bring full squad
Vila-real are coming to the Camp Nou with no injury concerns. Senna and Jefferson Montero were both doubtful, but both have been named in a team that hasn’t lost since the first game of the season. Since then, they’ve won points in every game (7 wins and 2 draws), a run that has seen Garrido’s charges fly up to one of the highest spots in the table.
Vila-real, dangerous guests
If there is one team that has caused headaches for Josep Guardiola at the Camp Nou then that team is Vila-real, who have not lost on any of their last three visits. Three years ago, in Rijkaard’s final season at Barça, they won 2-1 in Barcelona. Two years ago, FCB’s title celebrations were put on hold by a 3-3 draw with the Valencians, and in the first game of 2010, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ also grabbed a point thanks to a 1-1 draw.