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Barcelona battle Villarreal to put pressure on Real Madrid at the top

Luis Enrique’s Barcelona welcome Villarreal to the Nou Camp, as they seek to close the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to just one point. The hosts are heavily odds-on at 2/9 with Coral to sink the Yellow Submarine, who have been impressive this season, and are chasing a top four spot.

The odds are stacked in Barca’s favour for good reason. Villarreal haven’t beaten their opposition in their last 11 attempts; Thierry Henry was playing for the Catalan side when they were edged out at home in a match that finished 2-1 in December 2008.

Earlier in the season, youngster Sandro Ramirez stole the headlines in a 1-0 victory for Enrique’s side, and last season the same fixture finished 2-1 with Neymar bagging a brace and Argentine centre back Matteo Musacchio netting for Marcelino Garcia Toral’s side.

Neymar is 4/1 to equal or better his achievement from last season, while Musacchio is 18/1 in the anytime market. The centre back has featured prominently against Barca over the past 12 months. As well as dispatching in their away defeat, he scored an own goal in the 3-2 loss at home, so emphasis could be on him to make amends.

Hosts Barca are on an impressive run, and have won their last seven matches in all competitions. Last time out in La Liga, they beat Elche 6-0 away, while in the Copa del Rey they defeated Atletico Madrid 3-2 in midweek. On both occasions, Neymar bagged a brace, so he is going for a hat-trick of doubles against Villarreal.

Lionel Messi also scored twice against Elche and is 13/5 to break the deadlock. Spain winger Pedro Rodriguez, meanwhile, netted in the last minute, and is 4/1 to grab the final goal.

The Yellow Submarine are on an 18-match unbeaten run across all competitions, though, and are likely to prove stern opposition in what could be a tough test for the Catalan giants.

Villarreal’s goals have been predominantly shared out across the team this season. Nevertheless, attacker Luciano Vietto is certainly one to watch and is good value at 11/4 to strike anytime, after a haul of 14 in 29 across all competitions so far this term.

Arsenal attacker Joel Campbell could well make his debut for the visitors, after joining the Spanish outfit on loan until the end of the season, as part of the deal that included defender Gabriel Paulista joining the Gunners permanently.

It could well be that the Costa Rica World Cup star is more suited to La Liga, where he might get more space while on the ball and he certainly has pace to burn. Campbell is 4/1 to net anytime, while tricky Mexican forward Giovani Dos Santos will face his former club and is 4/1 in the same market.