It is a must-win in every sense of the term.
On Sunday, FC Barcelona take on Villarreal at the Estadio de la Cerámica in La Liga, and could be as many as seven points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid in the title race come the 16.00 ET/22.00 CEST kick-off.
In relation to the task ahead, SPORT’s Ivan San Antonio writes that coach Quique Setien faces a dilemma by having to choose who forms a front line trio with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez between Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati.
Pushed to comment on this topic in a tense prematch press conference yesterday, Setien said: “Griezmann is a great player and very important for the club and the team. When he has played, you ask me about Ansu Fati. [Not] everyone can play and I have to decide [on] my [front line] and who I think contributes or does not contribute to the team. I take into account the importance and the hierarchy of each player, but in a club like Barça with so many players … I know that some are going to get angry because not all are fit and it is a decision that I must take responsibility for, and that is what I do.”
Be that as it may, San Antonio tips Griezmann to get the nod. And in goal, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is an immovable object protected by a back line of Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
Injured this week, Samuel Umtiti is unlikely to feature in Blaugrana for the rest of the season – though he may return for the Champions League in August.
Earning his third consecutive start, La Masia pearl Riqui Puig should partner Arturo Vidal in front of Sergio Busquets in midfield while Frenkie de Jong recovers.
FC Barcelona Predicted First XI: Ter Stegen; Alba, Lenglet, Pique, Roberto; Busquets, Puig, Vidal; Griezmann, Suarez, Messi
“I don’t know if they are the best or [one of] the best teams returning from [the coronavirus-induced] isolation,” Setien said of today’s in-form opposition. “They are doing things very well, with a lot of talent [and] players in good form, who defend well and who are going to compromise us a lot because they are playing at home. But we played a pretty good game against Atlético [Madrid] and I hope we are at that level and get through the game.”
If Barça don’t with a positive result, Setien could find himself unemployed as early as the turn of the week.