Barcelona will be bidding to end their 2021-22 La Liga campaign on a high when they welcome Villarreal to Camp Nou on Sunday night. The Catalan giants have already secured second position in the table behind Real Madrid, but Villarreal are bidding to hold off competition from Athletic Bilbao to finish seventh in Spain’s top flight. Watching Real Madrid win the La Liga title in such emphatic fashion will not have been easy for Barcelona, while the Catalan outfit have also had to stand by while their Clasico rivals have advanced to the Champions League final.
Finishing second will never be accepted at Camp Nou, but all things considered, it has been a relatively stable second half of the season for Barcelona, who will finish second in Spain’s top flight, picking up 73 points from their 37 league games thus far, which has left them five clear of third-placed Atletico Madrid. Xavi’s side have won 21, drawn 10 and lost six of their 37 La Liga fixtures this term, and they are currently on a four-game unbeaten run, beating Mallorca, Real Betis and Celta Vigo before playing out a goalless draw with Getafe last weekend.
Barcelona, who failed in both the Champions League and Europa League this season, have the fourth-best home record in La Liga this term, picking up 38 points from 18 matches, and they will be welcoming a Villarreal side that only have the 11th-best record on their travels. The Catalan giants have won their last five La Liga matches against the Yellow Submarine, meanwhile, including a 3-1 victory in the reverse game earlier this season.Villarreal have not actually beaten Barcelona in La Liga since March 2008, when they recorded a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou, which is an indication of the size of their task on Sunday evening.
The Yellow Submarine reached the semi-finals of this season’s Champions League, losing to Liverpool in the final four, but they have been unable to secure a top-six finish in La Liga, having only picked up 56 points from their 37 league games this term. Unai Emery’s side are only one point clear of eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao in the battle for seventh, which would see the club qualify for the playoff round of the Europa Conference League. Villarreal will view any European football as a plus, but having proved themselves in this season’s Champions League, the fact that they will not be present in either the Champions League or Europa League next term will be seen as a disappointment.
Emery’s team thumped Rayo Vallecano 5-1 in their last away match on May 12, but they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Real Sociedad in their last match on May 15. Barcelona have a long list of absentees at the moment, with Eric Garcia, Nico Gonzalez, Sergi Roberto, Sergino Dest and Pedri all definitely out of this contest. Memphis Depay and Gerard Pique are also major doubts, but Ronald Araujo should be available following a concussion, with the defender set to make a timely return for the home team. Araujo could partner Clement Lenglet in the middle of the defence, and there should be returns for Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong, who were both suspended against Getafe.
Memphis’s potential absence, meanwhile, could see Ousmane Dembele could into the front three, with a meeting due to be held after the contest to decide his future at Camp Nou. As for Villarreal, Gerard Moreno and Alberto Moreno remain on the sidelines through injury, while Arnaut Danjuma and Yeremi Pino remain doubts for the Yellow Submarine. Juan Foyth is also out with the booking that he picked up against Real Sociedad, so Mario Gaspar could feature at right-back this weekend. There are unlikely to be any changes elsewhere, though, with Giovani Lo Celso again likely to play in an advanced area alongside Boulaye Dia, while Francis Coquelin should again feature in a wide midfield role.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Lenglet, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, F de Jong; Dembele, Aubameyang, Torres
Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Gaspar, Albiol, P Torres, Estupinan; Chukwueze, Capoue, Parejo, Coquelin; Lo Celso, Dia