BARCELONA (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Barcelona have been boosted by the return of captain Andres Iniesta for the must-win game against a Villarreal side who have made a habit of taking points off Spain’s top sides this season.
Midfielder Iniesta missed the wins over Osasuna and Espanyol with muscle discomfort but coach Luis Enrique confirmed the 32-year-old was fit to play on Saturday as Barca seek to defend their slender lead over Real Madrid at the top of the standings.
Champions Barca are top due to their superior head-to-head record with Real although the Madrid side, also on 81 points, have a game in hand as they bid for their first title since 2012.
Villarreal are fifth on 63 points and have won five of their last six games.
Fran Escriba’s side earned a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid in September to end their 16-game winning streak in the league and took a 2-0 lead over Zinedine Zidane’s team in February before losing 3-2.
Only a stoppage-time free kick from Lionel Messi denied Villarreal victory over Barca in January, forcing a 1-1 draw. They are the only team in the league this season to win both league games against Atletico Madrid and held fourth-placed Sevilla to two draws.
“I don’t just focus on that (their record against the top four) but in what they do as a team. They are very organised with the ball and are very good at defending deep,” Luis Enrique told a news conference on Friday.
“If you look at their numbers and how they play you realise they are one of the most difficult teams to face in the league. It’s the most difficult game because it’s the next one and it’s going to be a really hard game against a team hoping to qualify for the Champions League.”
Editing by Ed Osmond