Barcelona vs Villarreal
After missing the first two weekends of the new season, Barcelona will finally begin their La Liga campaign as they take on Villarreal.
The Catalan club has endured quite a chaotic last few months as a new manager in Ronald Koeman has arrived, club legend Lionel Messi has decided to stay after wanting to leave, while several other stars have departed.
Despite all of that off-field drama, the Catalans are still significant favourites to start the season with an away win. But can the Yellow Submarine defy the La Liga 2020 betting odds and sink Barca in Koeman’s debut?
Koeman’s Barcelona still taking shape
The last time we saw Barcelona play a competitive match, they were dealt a disastrous 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals. Manager Quique Setien was sacked soon after and Ronald Koeman was installed as the new Barca boss.
There was a legitimate possibility that Koeman would be without the great Lionel Messi, who made it clear he wanted a move away from the club. In the end, though, Messi has decided to stay for at least one more season.
Messi is coming off another magnificent season where he had 25 goals and 21 assists in La Liga. Even at age 33, he is showing few signs of slowing down.
However, the team around Messi failed to rise up to his level, which was why the Catalans lost their La Liga crown to Real Madrid.
Koeman has wasted no time overseeing a clearout of the squad this summer. The likes of Arthur, Nelson Semedo, Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, and Luis Suarez, who has moved to rivals Atletico Madrid, have all left the club.
But despite being linked with the likes of Memphis Depay and Gini Wijnaldum, Miralem Pjanic and 20-year-old winger Trincao have been the only notable additions thus far.
Philippe Coutinho has returned to the club after his loan from Bayern, though, and he will add some much-needed creativity in midfield alongside Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets.
Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann, who recently scored the winning goal in their 1-0 win over Elche in the Joan Gamper Trophy, is likely to lead the line with Messi and 17-year-old breakout star Ansu Fati on the wings.
Emery’s Villarreal could make changes
The Unai Emery era in Villarreal has gotten off to a decent start. After being held at home by newly-promoted Huesca, the Yellow Submarine picked up their first win of the season last week against Eibar.
Strikers Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer both scored as Villarreal came back from a goal behind to win 2-1.
Moreno, the club’s leading scorer with 18 goals last season, is already off producing La Liga 2020 highlights. He has two goals in 11 shots through the first two games.
Emery has fielded a virtually identical side 4-4-2 formation through the first two games, with Moreno and Alcacer up front and the former Valencia pair of Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin in the centre of midfield.
However, Emery has a track record of being more conservative with his tactics, especially in big games against the top sides. He could be tempted to add another player in midfield in place of Paco Alcacer and play on the counterattack against Barca.
The Barcelona backline looked quite vulnerable last season as they conceded 38 goals, the most they’d given up since 2012-13.
The pace of winger Samuel Chukwueze has the potential to cause Barca some problems. The 21-year-old scored against Barcelona in a wild 4-4 draw at El Madrigal back in 2019.
That epic 4-4 draw is actually the only time Villarreal have avoided defeat to Barcelona in their last seven meetings.
Barca did the double over Villarreal last season. After a 2-1 win at the Camp Nou, the Catalans went to El Madrigal and won 4-1. Griezmann scored in both games against Villarreal last season.
Barcelona have absolutely dominated the Yellow Submarine over the years. Villarreal’s last victory over the Catalans came all the way back in 2008. Since then, Barca have won 18 of their 24 meetings.
|Barcelona vs Villarreal||Under 3.00 @ 2.06|
|September 28, 03:00 (GMT+8)|
SBOTOP odds have Barcelona installed as massive 1.48 favourites to begin the Ronald Koeman era with a home win. Villarreal are priced at 6.20 to claim a shock win at the Camp Nou, while a draw is at 4.30.
But the over under market appears to be the more intriguing play. Villarreal and Barcelona have had some high-scoring games in recent years. There have been at least three goals in 11 of their last 15 games and four or more in nine.
However, the combination of Barca still learning Koeman’s preferred system and Emery’s usually conservative approach could see a lower-scoring affair this time around.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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