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Luis Enrique vows to break Villarreal run

Luis Enrique spoke to the press on Saturday morning / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Whilst praising Villarreal coach Marcelino’s team, Luis Enrique insisted his side were out to break the visitors’ good run of results on Sunday evening

Luis Enrique’s Barça may be hitting top form right now, but the boss is well aware that Sunday’s visitors to the Camp Nou, Villarreal, are enjoying a great run themselves. Unbeaten in their last 18 games, Villarreal will be a tough test, though in his Saturday morning press conference, Luis Enrique insisted: “we’ll be looking to beat them and put an end to their run, but they are a tough opponent because of their footballing philosophy. They won’t just come to defend, they attack really well too”.

Luis Enrique recalled the difficulties his team had to come away with the three points from El Madrigal when the two met earlier this season and only late goal from Sandro finally gave them the win: “if we don’t press them, we’ll be in trouble. We had plenty of chances in the first game this season, but it was a hard job to beat them”.

After a hectic January, the players will have six days after the game against Villarreal before they play again and Luis Enrique explained: “this will be really useful to work on things we haven’t been able to deal with over the last few weeks. We are used to playing three games a week though and we manage the squad and the different options the players give us accordingly”.[[CITA_1]]

Echoing team captain Xavi’s sentiments on Friday, Luis Enrique also defended Neymar and the rest of the players following the game against Atlético Madrid midweek: “all the players behaved perfectly. Neymar is playing his best football at the Club since he arrived. He’s with the right team to become an epoch making figure”. Declining to compare Neymar and Messi, the boss insisted: “Messi has set the bar so high with all that he has done, all that he is still doing and all that he will continue to do”.

Neymar is with the right team to become an epoch making figure

Villarreal's excellent form away from home

Messi in action earlier in the season at El Mardrigal. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Sunday’s visitors are one of the best sides in the league away from home having lost just once this season away from El Madrigal

Three straight wins

Despite Villarreal’s excellent results this season  Barça have a good recent record against the Yellow Submarine at Camp Nou. The blaugranes have not lost in the fixture since the season 2007/08 and have won the last three league meetings between the sides at home.

Villarreal visit Camp Nou this Sunday with some impressive numbers coming into such a big game. The blaugranes’ rivals have had an excellent first half to the league campaign and have only lost once away from home so far this season. That defeat came at the start of November against Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán when two late goals gave the home side a come from behind 2-1 victory.

Since that moment the team affectionately known as the Yellow Submarine due to their home kit are unbeaten away from their stadium of El Madrigal and in total they have won four times and drawn five on the road as well as the defeat against Unai Emery’s men. Marcelino García Toral’s team have claimed victory as such tough away grounds as the Vicente Calderón where they beat Atlético by one goal to nil.

Second best defensive record away

One of the keys to Villarreal’s form away from home has been their defensive performances. In ten matches on the road they have conceded just eight goals and they have kept a clean sheet on no less than four occasions. That strength means they have the second best defensive record away from home in the league, behind the blaugranes, who have just conceded five times on their travels.

Furthermore, Villarreal are unbeaten in all competitions in their last 18 matches. Their last defeat came in the Europa League when they lost 3-2 away against FC Zurich in the fourth game of the competition’s group stage.

Since that day they have recorded 13 wins and five draws, allowing them to rise to sixth place in the league, move into the last 32 in Europe and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League where they will face Barça. Sunday’s clash with the blaugranes comes at a perfect time for both sides with FC Barcelona also currently in excellent form. The confrontation at Camp Nou on Sunday is not one to be missed.

Neymar's two goals against Villarreal

Neymar celebrates scoring against Villarreal last season / PHOTO: FCB-Archive
With both goals in a 2-1 win, the Brazilian helped FC Barcelona to victory last season on the Yellow Submarine’s last visit in the league to Camp Nou

Recent matches have served to show that Neymar is in great form ahead of the visit of Villarreal to Camp Nou in the league this Sunday in a game that kicks off at 9.00pm (CET). The Brazilian star now has 21 goals in all competitions this season and has scored four goals in his last two matches (against Elche and Atlético Madrid). He will be keen to that total against the weekend’s visitors.

The Barça number 11 is no stranger to scoring against the team nicknamed the Yellow Submarine. He found the net last season on Villarreal’s last visit to Camp Nou in the league. With Leo Messi out though injury, the Brazilian stepped up to the plate to score twice to help Barça claim all three points against an always difficult opponent.

Xavi optimistic, happy with team's performance

Xavi Hernandez spoke in Friday's press conference after the morning training session. / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUÍZ - FCB
The Barça captain sees the squad in top form, concedes they are Cup favourites

The midfielder says he made the right decision in staying with Barça, says he has time to decide his future

Xavi Hernandez appeared Friday in the press room of the Ciutat Esportiva ahead of Sunday’s 9.00pm (CET) league clash with Villarreal at Camp Nou. Villarreal will also be Barça‘s rival in the semi-finals of the Spanish Cup after knocking out Getafe in the quarter-finals. Xavi acknowledged that Barça are the favourites, but that it won’t be easy.

The Barça captain said he was very happy to see the team win seven straight games. He was asked what has changed. “The results,” he said. “Everything is based on results, and now it seems that everything is wonderful,” he added. “It’s great for the whole team.”[[CITA_1]]

Xavi also talked about the last match at the Vicente Calderón. Luis Enrique‘s squad scored two goals on counterattacks and one more off a free-kick. In most games we can’t counterattack because the other teams just sit back on defence and we can’t make quick transitions,” he explained.

The midfielder wanted to put an end to any controversies and said: We’re united and hungry. Things always happen in the locker room, they’ll continue to happen, and I think it’s good that they happen.The team has moved on and doesn’t care about it anymore,” he added.[[CITA_2]]

As team captain, Xavi defended Neymar after the Brazilian was the object of some criticism after the Atlético game. “He’s an extraordinary player that makes a difference. He’s very skilled and is always going to get fouled by opponents. That’s is way of playing and it won’t change,” Xavi declared.

He also spoke about last summer’s decision to stay with Barça. “I made the right call. Now the most important thing is the team and I’ll have time later to decide my future,” he said. The most important things, he said, was “that the team is alive in all three competitions.”

Everything is based on results, and now it seems that everything is wonderful.
We’re united and motivated.

LIVE- Xavi Hernández's press conference

Xavi Hernández, en roda de premsa / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Barça captain to appear today at 12.30pm (CET) at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper ahead of the match against Villarreal to talk to the media

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