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Match Preview: FC Barcelona v Villarreal

February 1, 2015 – 11:00 | Comments Off

Leo Messi in this season's first game against Villarreal. / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Barça are back at Camp Nou on Sunday to go for their fourth straight league win while Villarreal are seeking their third in a row

Something’s gotta give for a pair of red hot league rivals set to square off at Camp Nou on Sunday at 9.00pm (CET) as FC Barcelona are back at home to host Villarreal, with both teams looking to extend their winning streaks.

Team news

Barça spent Saturday morning at the Ciutat Esportiva working on their final preparations for Villarreal. Head coach Luis Enrique will announce the squad list on Sunday morning.

The team’s first session to get ready for Villarreal was on Friday, as they were rewarded with a day off on Thursday following Wednesday night’s physical 3–2 victory over Atlético de Madrid in the Spanish Cup quarter-finals.

The day after Barça knocked Atlético out of the tournament, Villarreal won their own quarter-final tie by eliminating Getafe, thus setting up a Cup semi-final, to be played in February and March, between Sunday’s Liga opponents.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Luis Enrique deserves a lot of credit for the way his team have played over the last few weeks. But despite a string of impressive results that have the squad’s confidence level at its high-water mark so far this season, the Barça skipper is not taking anything for granted. “If we don’t press them, we’ll be in trouble,” he warned.

At Saturday’s press conference Luis Enrique acknowledged that Villarreal represent an enormous challenge as one of the few teams Barça will face all year that eschew a purely defensive approach. “They won’t just come to defend, they attack really well too,” he said.

Meanwhile, Villarreal coach Marcelino has repeatedly implied that his team are living a dream. Enjoying unprecedented success this season — Villarreal have never hoisted a major trophy — they have sailed into uncharted territory.

Form guide

Barça are looking to get their fourth win in a row in La Liga. Ever since they opened 2015 by falling at Anoeta back on 4 January, the culers have been unstoppable. In their last seven games overall, they have beaten both Elche and defending Liga champs Atlético three times each — once in the league and twice in the Cup — while also besting Deportivo along the way. The blaugranes currently sit in second place in the league table, four points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid, who beat Real Sociedad on Saturday and also have a game in hand.

Villarreal may just be the hottest team on the planet right now. They are unbeaten in their last 18 games overall — including 10 straight in the league — with their last defeat in any competition coming in a 3–1 home loss to Valencia in La Liga way back on November 2. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that they have only lost once on the road this season, the fewest in the league. They also haven’t given up a goal in their last 376 minutes played. Villarreal are currently sixth in the table and could move into fourth place with a win over Barça and some help from Valencia and Sevilla.

Ones to watch

While FC Barcelona’s offensive trident is always quick to grab the headlines, this week the culer defence will be thrust into the spotlight as Villarreal are expected to be reluctant to sit back in their own end. Although we won’t know who Luis Enrique will task with holding down the fort until around an hour before kick-off, Barça’s defensive front is certain to be a major factor in front of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Both Dani Alves and Gerard Piqué are one yellow away from being sanctioned.

Whoever does start for Barça on the back line will have to keep a close eye on Villarreal striker Luciano Vietto, who leads the team with nine goals. Another player sure to garner attention will be Jonathon dos Santos, who spent 12 years climbing up the ladder at La Masia, eventually debuting with the first team in the 2012/13 season. And he won’t be the only Dos Santos. Jonathon’s older brother and fellow Mexican national team member Giovani, who also played for Barça until 2008, will likely see some action.

History

FC Barcelona have been the victors in Villarreal’s last three visits to Camp Nou, outscoring them by a count of 10–2…There have only been two hat-tricks in the history of this rivalry, with Patrick Kluivert doing it for Barça back in 2001 and Diego Forlán getting Villarreal’s in 2005…Ten current Barça players — Adriano, Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Alves, Pedro Rodríguez, Leo Messi, Ivan Rakitic, Neymar and Sandro Ramírez — have scored at least one career goal against Villarreal. Among them, only Adriano (Sevilla), Piqué (Zaragoza) and Rakitic (Sevilla) scored while playing for other teams…Only two current Villarreal players — Musacchio and Trigueros — have previously scored a goal against Barça.

Luis Enrique has two wins and a draw in three career games coached against Villarreal, while Marcelino has never beaten Barça as a coach, only managing two draws and seven losses in nine career games.

Coverage

The game is being shown live in Catalonia on Canal+ 1 / HD / 30, and Canal+ Yomvi. Coverage in the United States will be on SiriusXM FC, beIN SPORTS CONNECT, beIN Sports en Español, and beIN Sports USA; in the UK it will be on Sky Go, Sky Sports 5/HD, and Sky Go Extra.

No matter where you are in the world, we have you covered. And remember, you can also listen to live play-by-play in English on Radio Barça. The radio link will appear on www.fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.

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Match Preview: FC Barcelona v Villarreal

February 1, 2015 – 11:00 | Comments Off

 Match Preview: FC Barcelona v Villarreal
Barça are back at Camp Nou on Sunday to go for their fourth straight league win while Villarreal are seeking their third in a row

Something’s gotta give for a pair of red hot league rivals set to square off at Camp Nou on Sunday at 9.00pm (CET) as FC Barcelona are back at home to host Villarreal, with both teams looking to extend their winning streaks.

Team news

Barça spent Saturday morning at the Ciutat Esportiva working on their final preparations for Villarreal. Head coach Luis Enrique will announce the squad list on Sunday morning.

The team’s first session to get ready for Villarreal was on Friday, as they were rewarded with a day off on Thursday following Wednesday night’s physical 3–2 victory over Atlético de Madrid in the Spanish Cup quarter-finals.

The day after Barça knocked Atlético out of the tournament, Villarreal won their own quarter-final tie by eliminating Getafe, thus setting up a Cup semi-final, to be played in February and March, between Sunday’s Liga opponents.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Luis Enrique deserves a lot of credit for the way his team have played over the last few weeks. But despite a string of impressive results that have the squad’s confidence level at its high-water mark so far this season, the Barça skipper is not taking anything for granted. “If we don’t press them, we’ll be in trouble,” he warned.

At Saturday’s press conference Luis Enrique acknowledged that Villarreal represent an enormous challenge as one of the few teams Barça will face all year that eschew a purely defensive approach. “They won’t just come to defend, they attack really well too,” he said.

Meanwhile, Villarreal coach Marcelino has repeatedly implied that his team are living a dream. Enjoying unprecedented success this season — Villarreal have never hoisted a major trophy — they have sailed into uncharted territory.

Form guide

Barça are looking to get their fourth win in a row in La Liga. Ever since they opened 2015 by falling at Anoeta back on 4 January, the culers have been unstoppable. In their last seven games overall, they have beaten both Elche and defending Liga champs Atlético three times each — once in the league and twice in the Cup — while also besting Deportivo along the way. The blaugranes currently sit in second place in the league table, four points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid, who beat Real Sociedad on Saturday and also have a game in hand.

Villarreal may just be the hottest team on the planet right now. They are unbeaten in their last 18 games overall — including 10 straight in the league — with their last defeat in any competition coming in a 3–1 home loss to Valencia in La Liga way back on November 2. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that they have only lost once on the road this season, the fewest in the league. They also haven’t given up a goal in their last 376 minutes played. Villarreal are currently sixth in the table and could move into fourth place with a win over Barça and some help from Valencia and Sevilla.

Ones to watch

While FC Barcelona’s offensive trident is always quick to grab the headlines, this week the culer defence will be thrust into the spotlight as Villarreal are expected to be reluctant to sit back in their own end. Although we won’t know who Luis Enrique will task with holding down the fort until around an hour before kick-off, Barça’s defensive front is certain to be a major factor in front of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Both Dani Alves and Gerard Piqué are one yellow away from being sanctioned.

Whoever does start for Barça on the back line will have to keep a close eye on Villarreal striker Luciano Vietto, who leads the team with nine goals. Another player sure to garner attention will be Jonathon dos Santos, who spent 12 years climbing up the ladder at La Masia, eventually debuting with the first team in the 2012/13 season. And he won’t be the only Dos Santos. Jonathon’s older brother and fellow Mexican national team member Giovani, who also played for Barça until 2008, will likely see some action.

History

FC Barcelona have been the victors in Villarreal’s last three visits to Camp Nou, outscoring them by a count of 10–2…There have only been two hat-tricks in the history of this rivalry, with Patrick Kluivert doing it for Barça back in 2001 and Diego Forlán getting Villarreal’s in 2005…Ten current Barça players — Adriano, Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Alves, Pedro Rodríguez, Leo Messi, Ivan Rakitic, Neymar and Sandro Ramírez — have scored at least one career goal against Villarreal. Among them, only Adriano (Sevilla), Piqué (Zaragoza) and Rakitic (Sevilla) scored while playing for other teams…Only two current Villarreal players — Musacchio and Trigueros — have previously scored a goal against Barça.

Luis Enrique has two wins and a draw in three career games coached against Villarreal, while Marcelino has never beaten Barça as a coach, only managing two draws and seven losses in nine career games.

Coverage

The game is being shown live in Catalonia on Canal+ 1 / HD / 30, and Canal+ Yomvi. Coverage in the United States will be on SiriusXM FC, beIN SPORTS CONNECT, beIN Sports en Español, and beIN Sports USA; in the UK it will be on Sky Go, Sky Sports 5/HD, and Sky Go Extra.

No matter where you are in the world, we have you covered. And remember, you can also listen to live play-by-play in English on Radio Barça. The radio link will appear on www.fcbarcelona.com just before kick-off. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.

Squad announced for Villarreal

February 1, 2015 – 10:55 | Comments Off

Claudio Bravo, shown here with Adriano, is back in the squad / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Claudio Bravo and Sergi Roberto are the only new faces with respect to the last squad, who come in for Masip and Bartra

Luis Enrique has announced his squad of eighteen for Sunday’s game at home to Villarreal at 9.00pm (CET). Claudio Bravo and Sergi Roberto are the only new faces with respect to the squad that played midweek at the Vicente Calderón in the cup. They take the places of Jordi Masip and Marc Bartra, while Douglas and Vermaelen are also out through injury.

The complete squad is therefore as follows: Ter Stegen, C.Bravo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Xavi, Pedro, A.Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Dani Alves and Mathieu.

FC Barcelona v Villarreal, a numbers game

February 1, 2015 – 01:40 | Comments Off

Luis Enrique and Marcelino García speak before their first meeting this season. / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Villarreal come back to Camp Nou with an 18-game unbeaten streak, but they haven’t won in Barcelona since 9 March 2008

Barça face Villarreal on Sunday at 9.00pm (CET) at Camp Nou. Let’s take a look at the matchup, by the numbers:

Barça haven’t lost to Villarreal at Camp Nou since 9 March 2008,when they fell 2–1 in Ronaldinho‘s last game in Barcelona. Since then, in the last ten league games with Villarreal, Barça have seven wins and three draws.


In the last 10 league games between Barça and Villarreal have seen a total of 35 goals, an average of 3.5 goals per game.


Both games last season between FC Barcelona and Villarreal in the league ended in victory for the culers. The match at Camp Nou ended 2-1 with two goals from Neymar, and the game at the Madrigal ended 3-2 thanks to a goal from Messi on 82 minutes, completing a comeback win and allowing Barça to keep fighting for the league title.


Villarreal arrive at Camp Nou in the midst of an 18-game unbeaten streak — 13 wins and 5 draws. They haven’t lost away from home in the league since 26 October against Sevilla (2-1).


Barça host Villarreal after seven consecutive victories against Atlético, Elche and Deportivo in the league, two second-round Cup matches against Elche and two quarter-final Cup matches against Atlético. In the seven wins, Barça have scored 26 goals for an average of 3.7 per game.


Barça are the second highest scoring team in the league with 54 goals. Messi is the team’s top scorer with 21 goals followed by Neymar‘s 14.


• Villarreal is tied with Real Madrid for the second fewest goals allowed in La Liga, with 17. Barça are first, having only given up nine goals.


The Dos Santos brothers return to Camp Nou as Villarreal players. Jonathan will be back for the first time after 12 years with Barça, having been part of the first team from 2009 to 2014. His brother, Giovani, also a product of La Masia, was on the first team in the 2007/08 season.


Luciano Vietto is the Villarreal‘s top scorer with nine of the team‘s 33 goals.


• Villarreal goalkeeper Asenjo leads the team with 1,800 minutes played, followed by Bruno (1,659) and Mario (1,520). Meanwhile, Barça are led by Bravo (1,800), Messi (1,755) and Busquets (1,506).


• Villarreal added two reinforcements in the winter transfer period: Joel Campbell, who came on loan from Arsenal and could debut this Sunday against Barça and Eric Bailly, from Espanyol, who is currently playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.

[MATCH REPORT] FC Barcelona B get back on track with 4–1 win at Sabadell #FCBB #FCBlive

January 31, 2015 – 18:25 | Comments Off

Barça B celebrate one of their four goals in Saturday's win at Sabadell / PHOTO: GERMÁN PARGA - FCB
Goals from Munir, Sandro, Halilovic and Dongou get Barça B back into the win column

Three goals in the first half put the match away as Eusebio’s men played the second half a man up

CE Sabadell, 1
Barça B, 4

CE Sabadell: De Navas, Ciércoles, Cristian, Collantes, A.Hidalgo (Carlos Hdez, 60′), C.Clerc, Aníbal, Eguaras, Kiko Olivas, Benja (Benja, 56′) and Yeray (Agus, 40′).

Barça B: Suárez, Grimaldo, Patric (Diagne, 86′), Edgar Ié, Dongou, Munir (Joan Román, 61′), Gumbau, Juan Cámara, Sandro, Halilovic (Bicho, 69′) and Robert Costa.

Goals: 0-1 Munir, 10′; 1-1 Aníbal, 33′; 1-2 Sandro (pen.), 36′; 1-3 Halilovic, 39′; 1-4 Dongou, 57′.

Referee: Arias López. Linesmen: De Juana González and Prieto López de Ceraín.

Barça B breathed some life back into their season in Sabadell on Saturday to help them move out of the danger zone in the league table. Barça looked to be at their best against the bottom team in the Second Division. Goals from Munir, Sandro – on a penalty kick – Halilovic and Dongou were just the medicine that Eusebio’s team needed after strugng for weeks to find consistency. 

A loss would have sunk Barça B to a new low while Sabadell were just as desperate needing points to help them in their quest to avoid relegation. But in the end, Barça’s firepower came from some of the Club’s future stars, who have all seen time with the first team and who showed promise in their collective resolve as they put their foot down in the team’s most difficult moment and threw a lifeline to their season.

Luis Enrique vows to break Villarreal run

January 31, 2015 – 14:30 | Comments Off

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

Manchester City draw 1–1 at Stamford Bridge

January 31, 2015 – 13:38 | Comments Off

David Silva scores the tying goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Barça’s Champions league rivals stepped up with a big performance at leaders Chelsea

Chelsea and Manchester City, Barça’s Champions League last-16 rivals, played to a 1–1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in a match pitting the top two teams of the English Premier League. Neither side took many risks in an effort to avoid taking what would amount to a huge defeat, as Chelsea kept their five-point lead at the top of the table.

Chelsea went ahead in the 41st on a Rémy‘s goal but Manchester City roared right back and knotted the game just before the half as David Silva redirected a Kun Agüero shot into the net.

Squad continue preparations for Villarreal

January 31, 2015 – 13:00 | Comments Off

Training this Saturday. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
The Barça squad trained at the Ciutat Esportiva on Saturday morning with all available players

The squad continues to prepare for Sunday evening’s visit of Villarreal with a training session at the Ciutat Esportiva on Saturday morning. All the available players were present, whilst Douglas trained apart and worked on his recovery.

Luis Enrique will announce the full squad to face Villarreal on Sunday morning.

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Xavi Pascual set to reach 300 Lliga Endesa games

January 31, 2015 – 11:45 | Comments Off

Xavi Pascual is set to take charge of his 300th league game/ PHOTO: FCB
This Sunday’s game against Bruixa d’Or will mark the coach’s 300th game since he took over in February 2008

Pascual has taken the team to seven league finals – winning four of them

Barça coach Xavi Pascual will reach the 300 league game mark on Sunday when his team take on La Bruixa d’Or, just under seven years since he made his debut in February 2008. In that time Pascual has won 232 wins and 67 defeats – a spectacular 77,23% winning rate.

Pascual has won four league titles since he took over. The first in the 2008/09 season when the team beat TAU Cerámica (3-1). Following that, the coach presided over wins in 2010/11 over Bilbao Basket (3-0), in 2011/12, Real Madrid (3-2) and last season, again over Bilbao (3-1).Xavi Pascual’s teams are always competitive and since he arrived at the Club, his teams have never failed to reach the Lliga Endesa finals.

Aíto García Reneses still holds the record as the coach with most games in charge at the Club, with 568 matches in his 14 years at the helm.

The league’s top coach

Pascual has also received a number of personal awards during his time in charge, having picked up the League Coach of the Year award on three occasions – in the 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 and the Spanish Coach of the Year Award (AEEB) in 2008/09, 2010/11 and last season.

 

When and where to watch FC Barcelona v Villarreal

January 31, 2015 – 11:35 | Comments Off

FC Barcelona v Villarreal
The local times and channels for watching Sundays’ Spanish League match at Camp Nou

Sunday 1 February 2015

Los Angeles – 12:00 PM (WST) / New York – 3:00 PM (EST)

SiriusXM FC, beIN SPORTS CONNECT, beIN Sports en Español, beIN Sports USA

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona and www.fcbarcelona.com

Brazil – 6:00 PM (Brasilia)

ESPN Brasil

South America – Buenos Aires 5:00 PM / Santiago Chile 5:00 PM / México City 2:00 PM

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona_es and www.fcbarcelona.es

ESPN Play Latin America, ESPN + Sur, ESPN + Andina, ESPN3 South America, ESPN Play Argentina

United Kingdom – 8:00 PM

Sky Go, Sky Sports 5/HD, Sky Go Extra

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona and www.fcbarcelona.com

France – 9:00 PM (CET)

BeiN Sports 1

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona_fra and www.fcbarcelona.fr

Barcelona – 9:00 PM (CET)

Canal+ 1 / HD / 30, Canal+ Yomvi

FCBarcelona: www.fcbarcelona.cat, www.fcbarcelona.es, @fcbarcelona_cat and @fcbarcelona_es

Arab Countries – 11:00 PM (Mecca Time)

beIN Sports Arabia 11 HD, beIN Sports Arabia 16 HD, beIN Sports Arabia 14 HD, beIN SPORTS CONNECT Arabia

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona_ara and www.fcbarab.com

Russia – 12:00 AM (MSK)

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona and www.fcbarcelona.com

Setanta Sports Eurasia +, NTV+ Football 2, NTV+ Sport Online

Monday 2 February 2015

India – 1:30 AM (IST)

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona and www.fcbarcelona.com

Star Sports 4 Asia

Indonesia – 3:00 AM (WIB)

Fox Sports Indonesia

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona_id and www.fcbarcelona.co.id

China – 4:00 AM (CST)

FC Barcelona: Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo and www.fcbarcelona.cn

QQ Sports Live, PPLive, Sina Sports, Star Sports China

Japan – 5:00 AM (JST)

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona_jap and www.fcbarcelona.jp

WOWOW, SKY PerfecTV LIVE

Australia – 7:00 AM (Sydney)

FC Barcelona: @fcbarcelona and www.fcbarcelona.com.

Fox Sports 4 Australia, Foxtel Play

 

                                                                                                                *Source: Live Soccer.tv

Villarreal’s excellent form away from home

January 31, 2015 – 11:25 | Comments Off

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.

Jonathan Dos Santos excited about return

January 31, 2015 – 11:00 | Comments Off

Jonathan Dos Santos will be back at the Camp Nou on Sunday / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The ex-Barça man is looking forward to a “special game”, whilst admitting Barça have hit top form

After leaving FC Barcelona after 12 years at the Club, Jonathan Dos Santos will face his old team on Sunday evening when Villarreal visit the Camp Nou. In an exclusive interview with www.fcbarcelona.com he tells us how he’s settled in at Villarreal and gives his views on Luis Enrique’s team’s progress.

How are you settling in at Villarreal?

 “I’ve been here for six months now and I’m 100% acclimatised. Being here with my brother has made it easier and I’m very happy at how the team is doing and the good run we are on”

So having your brother Giovanni has made a big difference?

“Yes, the truth is that it really has. If I’d gone to another club I am sure it would have been harder to settle in – Giovanni has been a fundamental”

It must have been tough to change after 12 years at FC Barcelona

“Of, course. My life was there and I still have my friends and my family in Barcelona. I was a bit down for the first couple of months because Villarreal is quite a small town, but I’ve got used to that now. I miss Barcelona and my friends and family, but I am very happy with the way I have been treated here. It was important for me to go to Villarreal and play and that’s what I am doing”.

You started the season on the bench, but now you are a key part of the team. How do you see that?

 “I found it hard at the start because I was coming off an injury ¡, but I trained hard and took my chances when I came on. I knew it was just a matter of time and that I had to take things one step at a time. The coach has given me confidence and making me feel an important part of the side. I have to carry on working hard, improving and showing what I can do.

Villarreal are now on an 18-game unbeaten run, what are your main strengths?

 “We play with a lot of intensity and we are hungry to achieve things. We also have a very demanding manager who is always available when you need him – that’s why we’ve gone 18 games unbeaten in all three competitions. I am very happy to be a part of this family”.

What will Villarreal have to do to win at the Camp Nou on Sunday?

 “I think it will be a very hard game, like every game you play at the Camp Nou. We know that Barça are strong at home. We are on a good run and we are full of confidence that we can take the three points and we will go into the match determined to stand up to them. We know that Barça can kill a game at any moment and we have to be careful with every little detail. We are coming to the Camp Nou with the aim of winning the game”.

You’ll also be up against Barça in the Cup semi-finals – how do you see that going?

 “We’re going to have three very intense games, with two attractive semi-finals. It’s the first semi-final in our history and we are very excited. We know Barça are the best team in the world, but we will play our own game and hope we get through to the final, though we know it will be tough”.

You’ve lost fewer games on the road than any other team in La Liga  – do you you’re your away games specially?

 “No, we play the same as we do at home and we’ll try and go into Sunday’s game with the same attitude that we have when we play at home”.

What does it mean to you personally to be coming back to the Camp Nou?

 “It’s a very special game for me, coming back to the Camp Nou as a visitor after 12 years there, playing against my ex-teammates. Let’s just hope it’s a good game a special game!”

Are you still in contact with any Barça players?

“Yes, with Rafinha, Dani Alves and a few others – those who I spent most time with when I was at the Club”

What do you think of Barça this season? Have you been following their games?

“Yes, I think I’ve seen nearly all of them. They are a side who have grown n confidence and are improving all the time. I think they are probably playing at their very best right now. It’s bad luck for us to be facing them now – they really are looking good”.