Barcelona will host Villarreal on Saturday evening at Camp Nou in the Spanish champions' first La Liga home match since November.
Gerardo Martino's short-handed squad suffered a shocking 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao their last time out on Dec. 1 but have since rebounded with impressive victories over Cartagena and Celtic in the Copa del Rey and Champions League, respectively.
However, Giovani dos Santos and Villarreal have been playing quality football as well, winning their previous two La Liga games away from El Madrigal. Therefore, something's got to give when these two Spanish powers meet for the first time this season on Saturday.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of kickoff.
Date: Saturday, December 14, 2013
Start Time: 2 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. GMT
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Watch: beIN Sport (U.S.), Sky Sports (U.K.)
Barcelona: 80.1 percent
Villarreal: 7.2 percent
Draw: 12.7 percent
*Odds according to Bloomberg Sports.
Top Storyline: Neymar Scorching-Hot Ahead of Weekend Clash
Brazilian sensation Neymar has shown glimpses of brilliance since signing with Barcelona last June. But on Wednesday, the 21-year-old forward had his coming-out party at Camp Nou, recording his first hat-trick with the Catalan giants in a 6-1 rout of Celtic.
Neymar also assisted on another Barca goal en route to earning Man of the Match honors. Perhaps even more impressive, Neymar's hat-trick came in a 14-minute span beginning in the waning moments of the first half as he turned a 2-0 Barcelona lead into a 5-0 lead to put the match completely out of reach.
With Messi still out of the picture and recovering from a hamstring injury, Neymar will once again be called upon to set the tone for his squad offensively this weekend. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against Villarreal, though, as thus far he's filled the role of playmaker for Barcelona in league play, recording only four goals and eight assists through 13 games.
Although Barcelona are missing some of their stars and have looked vulnerable away from home of late, there's no reason to believe they won't continue to roll at Camp Nou, where they've won all seven of their previous La Liga matches this season.
What's more, Barca have outscored those seven clubs by a combined mark of 25-5. Only Atletico Madrid boast a better margin at home in 2013-14.
While Villarreal have been up to the task on the road this season, they'll have to overcome the odds in order to keep Neymar and Co. under wraps for 90-plus minutes. Keep in mind that Barcelona have shutout their past two La Liga opponents at Camp Nou and possessed the ball for roughly 66 percent of those matches.
Barca have created more scoring chances as well, recording 13 shots on target over that time compared to just five for their opponents.
Barcelona 3, Villarreal 1
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