Barcelona will look to hold on to their lead at the top of table, when they visit Estadio de la Ceramica to take on Villarreal on Sunday night.

After two consecutive draws in the league against Valencia and Celta Vigo, the Catalan giants will undoubtedly be wanting to get back to their winning ways and get back their five-point lead at the top of the table with a victory over Javier Calleja’s Villarreal CF on Sunday.

As per the 18-man squad list released on Barcelona’s official site, Ernesto Valverde will be without a number of players for this tie. Starting with defence, Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti have been left out as they are still recovering from their respective hamstring injuries.

Barcelona B centre-back David Costas has been called up to the first team as a result, but it is unlikely that he will start alongside Gerard Pique in defence, especially with Thomas Vermaelen fit and being involved more and more with each passing week.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Javier Mascherano of Barcelona and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona chat during the FC Barcelona training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper on October 18, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Javier Mascherano and Andres Iniesta, set to miss out once again. (Picture Courtesy – Getty Images)

Valverde had some positive things to say about the Belgian in his pre-match press conference, that he has confidence in the defender upon his superb return to the fold at Camp Nou.

He said, “He’s doing very well and you’re asking me about him less and less. He’s always well focused and a strong-tackler all over the pitch. He’s the kind of player who generates confidence.”

In midfield, Andres Iniesta remains the biggest absentee for the visitors, having only returned to training this week. Ousmane Dembele (hamstring) and Rafinha (knee) continue to miss out as well, with the duo in the process of completing their rehabilitation.

Speaking about Iniesta, the Barcelona boss said, “What Iniesta did yesterday isn’t enough, he was only involved in a small part of the session. We’ll have to see how he gets on today.”

Lionel Messi started on the bench against Sporting CP. He’s played all but two games for Barcelona this season, and Ernesto Valverde revealed that they may rest him once again for this tie, in order for him to get a much needed break in what is an extremely long season.

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