Hassan Chamas

What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona (1st; 39 points) vs Villarreal (9th; 21 points)
When: Saturday 2nd January, 2010, at 20:00 CET
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

World Champions

Barcelona finished 2009 as the best year in their recorded history by clinching no less than six titles. The La Liga trophy, Copa del Rey, Champions League, domestic and European Super Cups, and the FIFA Club World Cup trophy ensured that Josep Guardiola enjoyed the best start a rookie manager could have hoped for.

With all titles now resting calmly at the Camp Nou, now starts the even harder task of retaining them. Perhaps Barcelona are the victims of their own success, but six titles or not, their feat remains one worthy of a standing ovation. Getting back to business as 2010 kicks-off, the Blaugrana will be looking to start defending their prizes, knowing that anything other than a win against Villarreal in La Liga might see pole position stolen by perennial enemies Real Madrid.

Rising Submarine

Villarreal lovers must be thanking heavens now that the Yellow Submarine are beginning to look a bit more like the side of the Manuel Pellegrini days. A measly six wins out of 15 matches is no smile drawer for a team that prided itself on being one of La Liga’s big boys in recent campaigns, even toppling Barcelona for 2nd place in the standings two seasons ago.

However, the team has been on the rise ever since their defeat to Sporting de Gijon almost a month ago. Slowly but steadily, Ernesto Valverde’s team has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, gradually climbing the chart. Should Villarreal manage to find that extra gear, they might just have what it takes to turn their season around. Should a dip occur, then they might as well have kissed a top-six finish goodbye, especially with the likes of Sevilla, Valencia, and Getafe impressing this season.



Recent form

Barcelona 1-0 RCD Espanyol (La Liga)
Atlante 1-3 Barcelona (Club World Cup 2009)
Barcelona 2-1 Estudiantes (Club World Cup 2009)

Atletico Madrid 1-2 Villarreal (La Liga)
Villarreal 0-1 Salzburg (Europa League)
Villarreal 2-0 Racing Santander (La Liga)

Key absences

Barcelona: Seydou Keita (African Cup of Nations); Yaya Toure (African Cup of Nations); Andres Iniesta (doubt)

Villarreal: Ariel Ibagaza (doubt)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Pedro: Guardiola might rest Lionel Messi for this one as the newly crowned World’s Best Player arrived late from Argentina. As such, the impressive Pedro Rodriguez will most probably occupy the attacking right flank. With another commanding display, it will be hard for Vicente del Bosque to leave him out of the World Cup squad heading to South Africa.

Villarreal – Nilmar: Contrary to his previous catastrophic Lyon spell, the Brazilian is enjoying life this time around in Europe, which has naturally reflected on his national team chances. A good season for the Yellow Submarine might be rewarded by granting him the wildcard to the Seleccao this summer.

Match prediction

Both teams go into the game with a lot at stake: All eyes will naturally be on the champions after their recent exploits, while Villarreal know that a shocker at the Camp Nou could propel their morale sky-high. However, that remains highly unlikely as Barcelona will go into this game as kings of the world, literally. Expect an easy 3-0 win for Pep’s men.


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