Live Barcelona blog: David Villa and Andres Iniesta set to be reunited in Japan

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Hola Blaugrana fans. And welcome to Saturday’s Barcelona blog.

The Sport360 team will be in place throughout the day to bring you all the latest Barca news, views and gossip.

Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook.

2:51pm – David Villa and Andres Iniesta set to be reunited in Japan

David Villa

Former Spain international David Villa is set to join Japanese club Vissel Kobe after leaving New York City.

The move will see the 36-year-old striker reunited with former Barcelona and Spain team-mate Andres Iniesta, who left the Camp Nou for Kobe in May.

Read more on this breaking news here.

2:15pm – Van der Sar says Ajax hope to keep former Barcelona keeper Onana

Edwin Van der Sar of Manchester United celebrates after John Terry of Chelsea misses a penalty

Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar says the club hope to keep goalkeeper Andre Onana for “as long as possible” amid rumours Barcelona want to re-sign him.

The Cameroon international moved to Amsterdam from Barca in 2015 and took over as the undisputed No1 the following season after Jasper Cillessen went in the opposite direction.

Onana features in our first rumour mill of the day, which you can read here.

1:11pm – Think Messi and Dembele are good? Check these Barcelona starlets out

Take a look at the Barcelona stars of the future with these five goals from La Masia youngsters.

9:59am – Barcelona need Dembele and Messi relationship to flourish

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele (r) impressed against PSV.

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele (r) impressed against PSV.

After securing Champions League progress against PSV Eindhoven in midweek, Barcelona refocus their attention on La Liga.

Last week’s 1-1 draw away to Atletico Madrid saw the Catalans lose top spot to Sevilla and they will host Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Here are Brendon Netto’s talking points ahead of the encounter.

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Barcelona need Messi and Dembele's relationship to flourish

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After securing Champions League progress against PSV Eindhoven in midweek, Barcelona refocus their attention on La Liga.

Last week’s 1-1 draw away to Atletico Madrid saw the Catalans lose top spot to Sevilla and they will host Villarreal at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Here are our talking points ahead of the encounter.

MESSI-DEMBELE PARTNERSHIP MUST TAKE CENTRE STAGE

Barcelona have struggled to find their rhythm in far too many games this season. Ernesto Valverde has scrambled around to find the right system and personnel to breed some level of consistency and so far all that can be relied on is the individual ability of their attacking stars.

Lionel Messi‘s match-winning powers are constant and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has helped Barca paper over the cracks for some time. However, with partner in crime Luis Suarez sidelined through injury, the Argentine joined forces with current Catalan anti-hero Ousmane Dembele in midweek to edge past PSV 2-1 and secure their spot in the Champions League round of 16 as group winners.

The Spanish giants were far from their best but when you have a player who can jink past a couple of opponents in a confined space and squeeze an impossible shot through a sea of bodies and past the keeper at the near post, cohesion isn’t always a necessity.

Messi does need ‘some’ help though and Dembele was there to lend a hand. The Frenchman’s reputation has taken a beating in the press over the last couple of weeks but he’s responded on the pitch with a dramatic late equaliser away to Atletico Madrid and another fine display in Eindhoven.

Valverde alluded to the link-up play between Messi and Dembele in his post-match interview and while Suarez is unavailable, Barca can only hope the relationship between the duo will carry them through.

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele (r) impressed against PSV.

Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele (r) impressed against PSV.

MORE DEFENSIVE WOES

A whopping 19 goals have been conceded by a porous Barcelona defence in La Liga this season, only Levante (21) have let in more among the top 14 teams. Gerard Pique in particular has come under heavy criticism for his form but has had to do without his regular centre-back partner Samuel Umtiti for much of the campaign so far.

The French defender was superb for the Catalans last season but has been plagued by injury this term. He missed two months due to a knee problem before returning for the clash at Atletico last weekend in what proved to be one of Barcelona’s and Pique’s best defensive displays this term.

However, Umtiti was forced to withdraw from the PSV game as the issues with his knee resurfaced and now, according to reports, surgery may be required. The defender is a doubt for the match with Villarreal – although he may soldier on for now – but if he does go under the knife, he may be ruled out until the closing stages of the season.

Clement Lenglet will continue to fill in and Thomas Vermaelen is nearing a full recovery but Barcelona remain short in central defence, an area which is likely to suffer if Umtiti endures another spell out of action.

Samuel Umtiti

VILLARREAL MUST BE FEARLESS

Now is as good a time as any to play the La Liga champions. They have conceded seven times in their last three league games and haven’t kept a clean sheet in the Spanish top-flight since August 26.

If Umtiti is not risked, their defence will be on crutches and Villarreal should approach this contest like they have nothing to lose. Barca have already dropped points to Girona, Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis at the Camp Nou this term, losing their 42-game unbeaten run in the process.

Villarreal are in 16th place but are only four points off the top half of the table while they’ve been excellent on the road. The Yellow Submarine will be looking for their third consecutive away win when they face Barca. The visitors have scored in each of their last five away games so if they can offer enough resistance at the back, they could come away with a result.

Javier Calleja

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Live Barcelona Blog: Catalans sweat over Umtiti knee injury

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Hola Blaugrana fans. And welcome to Friday’s Barcelona blog.

The Sport360 team will be in place throughout the day to bring you all the latest Barca news, views and gossip.

Get in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook.

12:45 – Umtiti may need surgery

Samuel Umtiti has been struggling with a knee problem and it has now emerged that he may require surgery.

The centre-back was forced to pull out of Barcelona’s Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday night.

Marca report that Umtiti has been offered the option of surgery by the Barcelona team doctors, with the decision left up to him.

Read more here.

Samuel Umtiti

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