Preview: Villarreal-Barca

Barcelona will be without Andres Iniesta for their crucial encounter with Villarreal on Sunday.

Iniesta is struggling with a calf strain and has not been risked for the trip to Villarreal, the midfielder joining Rafinha, Javier Mascherano, Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti on the treatment table.

Arda Turan and Gerard Deulofeu, meanwhile, have been dropped by Barca on technical grounds, amidst mounting speculation that they will leave in January.

Villarreal have personnel problems of their own, with captain Bruno Soriano among those missing out against the Catalans.

Starlet Pablo Fornals has also been ruled out after fainting in training and since being diagnosed with hypoglycaemia, a potentially-serious condition relating to low blood sugar.

“We know that he has a clear impact on how they play, but we won’t do anything special to stop him,” Coach Javi Calleja said at a Press conference.

“The idea is to try to stop them all, with our game and as a team. Barcelona are the favourites, they’re top and currently the best team in the League.

“No-one has beaten them yet, but we can’t think that we can’t beat them. We’ll go out with the idea of winning, playing well and making our fans happy.

“It’s clear that there will be maximum difficulties, but we have a chance and we’re going to push them to the maximum.

“This is a more solid Barcelona, a team that are defending very well, stopping their opponents from causing problems and therefore aren’t conceding many goals.

“In addition, they continue to pose the same problems or even more. They dominate all aspects of the game in attack and can hurt you at any moment.”

The Yellow Submarine come into the match on the back of successive Liga defeats and have not beaten Barca since March 2008.

However, the League leaders are winless in two and faced with the pressure of not dropping points after Real Madrid and Valencia both bounced back with victories.

Villarreal (probable): Asenjo; Mario, Alvaro, Victor Ruiz, Jaume; Trigueros, Rodrigo, Ramiro; Raba; Bakambu, Soriano

Injuries/suspensions: Bacca, Bruno, Cheryshev, Andres, Sansone, Fornals (I)

Barcelona (probable): Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Sergi Roberto; Paulinho; Messi, Suarez

Injuries/suspensions: Iniesta, Rafinha, Mascherano, Dembele, Umtiti (I)

Referee: De Burgos Bengoetxea

Form guide: Villarreal – 6th (L L D W D) Barca – 1st (D D W W W)

Previous meeting: Barca 4-1 Villarreal

Venue: La Ceramica

Kick-off time: 19:45 GMT/20:45 CET (LIVE on Football Espana)