Both sides are coming off impressive victories in Jornada 1. Starting with the hosts, let`s take a look at how their squads are shaping up coming into a tie that produced 5 goals and some thrilling action last year.
It`s been a good couple of weeks for El Submarino Amarillo – Having advanced into the group stages of the Europa League and defeated local rivals (of sorts) Levante in their opening league fixture.
Marcelino`s men impressed at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia with goals from stalwart Ikechukwu Uche and new recruit Denis Cheryshev, the latter of whom will no doubt be looking to build on his goalscoring first outing.
As with so many clubs around Spain, Villareal have taken on ex-Barcelona youth players and Marcelino will be looking for big performances from last years star Giovani Dos Santos as well as recent addition Javier Espinosa, both La Masia graduates with points to prove. Jonathan Dos Santos, former fringe player with the Barcelona first team, joined up with brother Giovani at Villareal this summer but is yet to make a competitive debut at El Madrigal.
There are no serious injury concerns for the home side who will likely field a similar eleven again this week.
There will be changes to the Barcelona squad, by both decision and design. With Marc Andre Ter-Stegen still sidelined with a back injury, Chilean netminder Claudio Bravo keeps his position at no 1.
At central defence, Javier Mascherano`s sending off sees him suspended for this clash, leaving Boss Luis Enrique with an interesting decision to make with regard to filling the spot at right centre back beside Frenchman, Jeremy Mathieu. Does he go with seasoned campaigner Gerard Piqué who returns from suspension this week, or does he choose the impressive Marc Bartra Arégall as a reward for having earned a call up to Vicente Del Bosque`s seleccion? These are the kind of headaches any manager would dream of having!
In midfield, Barcelona will have to alter the trio of Busquets,Iniesta and new boy Ivan Rakitic who performed so well together last week. Luis Enrique has left the Andalucian Iniesta out of his match squad and with unsettled midfielder Alex Song shipped out on loan to West Ham United, it looks as though Xavi Hernandez will be brought back in to marshal the middle of the park.
Rafinha Alcantara has been given the green light to play again this week. Neymar Jr, having trained fully with the squad in recent days, has also made the grade. Marquee summer signing Luis Suarez remains suspended and will watch from the stands.
It`s difficult to predict what attacking trio Luis Enrique will start with on Sunday. Last week, a revitalised Lionel Messi looked spectacular alongside Pédro Rodriguez and 18 year old Starlet, Munir El Haddadi, who scored on his first team competitive debut. The manager will likely wish to build the confidence of El Haddadi, however as the details of the size of the Neymar transfer fee have slowly come to light this summer, there must be some pressure on the manager to opt for the flashy Brasilian.
Expect Villareal to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona in a game that will produce exciting moments and lots of quality technical football. Not to be missed!