Barcelona boss Xavi is wary of the dangers that a “very aggressive” Villarreal side may pose as they prepare to meet in La Liga on Saturday.
Barca come into the match on a three-match winning streak in the league but sit eight points behind league leaders Girona, who have played one game more.
At the opposite end of the table, Villarreal are lingering just five points above the drop zone and are without a win in their last three in the league.
Xavi understands Saturday’s opponents are going through a tough spell but is still alert to their threat.
Quoted on Barcelona’s official website, he said: “Villarreal are going through a bad patch.
“But Marcelino’s teams are always very aggressive and well-organised, and work hard on defence. They still have a lot of standout players who can make all the difference.
“We still have every chance of catching up in the league and these next two games at home are a key part of that. And the team is very united, we have a very strong-minded squad. I have never seen a squad with so much human quality in my whole career.”
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Barcelona are currently suffering with several injury issues which have depleted their squad slightly, which have seen the likes of youngsters Lamine Yamal, Pau Cubarsi and Hector Fort get regular game time.
Those on the injury list include Gavi, Marcos Alonso, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Inigo Martinez, Raphinha and Alejandro Balde.
Xavi has praised his young players for stepping up to the mark in recent games.
He added: “At their ages they shouldn’t be shouldered with these responsibilities, but given our current situation it’s what we have to do.
“They are ready to play and a lot of credit has to go to Lamine, Cubarsi and Fort. They are the present and future of the club and that’s very good news for Barca.”
Barcelona narrowly came out on top in a seven-goal thriller the last time the two sides met, Robert Lewandowski’s goal clinching a 4-3 win for the Catalan side.
Villarreal boss Marcelinho is expecting the best of Barcelona and thinks his team are becoming more competitive.
He said: “They’re a team that has only lost two games. It’s true that they are conceding more than last year and that is taking points away from them and, although they are not at their very best, I’m expecting a good Barca side.
“The most important thing in football is consistency. We’re more competitive now but at specific moments we’re being punished too much by our opponents’ finishing, which we often lack.
“We’re not always showing that level on a regular basis and our job is to identify why and work on it.”