2nd April 2011
Villarreal enter the derby high on confidence having beaten Athletic Bilbao at San Mames and the hosts are now looking to cause an upset and get at least one point from this match. Barcelona remained five points clear of Real after beating Getafe, but the Catalans now face a difficult task at El Madrigal.
Villarreal have established themselves as top La Liga side over the last few years and they are probably the team that play the best football in Spain after Barcelona. Juan Carlos Garrido has done a great job with his side this season as the Yellow Submarine continue to do well in both La Liga and Europa League, where they have just made it to the quarter-finals following a double victory over Bayer Leverkusen. Villarreal climbed to third place in La Liga standings after bringing all three points from one of the most difficult away games in Spain and they are now very motivated to record a positive result against Barcelona as well. Villarreal are one of just a few teams in Europe that will be looking to play football against Barca rather than adopting defensive tactics, even if that can come back to haunt them as the Catalans are lethal when afforded some space. The hosts are heavily relying on attackers Nilmar, Rossi and Cazorla, but they will be without Marcos Senna, Angel Lopez and Xavi Oliva.
Barcelona have been in impressive form this season and the Catalans are doing well on all three fronts, easily overcoming any obstacles put in front of them. Pep Guardiola’s team were under big pressure after losing the first leg of the Champions League clash with Arsenal, but they, nonetheless, managed to eliminate the Gunners and continue what could be a very successful season. A slip up against Sevilla allowed Real Madrid to close the gap behind them to five points in the La Liga standings, meaning that Barcelona have got to win this game if they want to avoid a nervy finish of the season. Even though Villarreal are clearly a very good side, their attacking style of play will leave a lot of space for Barca to exploit, so there is a good chance the Catalans will win this game. The visitors face certain selection problems with Xavi, Puyol, Abidal, Pedro and Maxwell all unavailable, but the most important thing is that Leo Messi has recovered from injury and that he will be fit to play.
The fans at El Madrigal are likely to see an entertaining game between two attack-minded teams, but everything suggests Barca will justify their favourites’ tag. Villarreal will be leaving a lot of space behind in an attempt to reach Victor Valdez’s goal and Barcelona are expected to punish the hosts on several occasions.
Verdict: Away win Barcelona (2)
Best Odds: 2/3
Bookmaker: William Hill
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