Tonight’s televised match features Fc Barcelona and Villarreal in a game that usually promises goals at the camp nou.
Barcelona will be in a positive mood after beating Levski Sofia 2-0 in midweek and can now put their Champions league pressures a side to focus on the Primera Liga once more. In spite of under-performing, at least by their high standards, the Catalan club continues to top the table in the domestic competition.
Rafa Marquez, who yesterday acquired Spanish citizenship, misses tonight’s game after picking up an injury on Wednesday evening; Lillian Thuram will step in as his more than capable understudy.
Belletti could make a return to the side and Edmilson is likely to occupy the holding role in central midfield in pace of the injured Thiago Motta.
It is in attack where Barcelona have problems. Rijkaard is forced to stick with Ronaldinho, Gudjohnsen and Lionel Messi whilst he awaits the return of Saviola, Messi and Eto’o.
Rijkaard is confident that his side can stay on top of the pile in spite of the lengthy queues at the treatment table:
"Since losing to Real Madrid and Chelsea a few weeks ago, the players have responded well and we have ground out some important results. We’re still not at our best but I am pleased with how things are going and can hope for another win against Villarreal," he said.
"Villarreal have been improving and they are a quality side. They always cause us problems and we need to be at our very best to beat them," he said.
Barcelona, with four wins from their five home games, lead the Primera Liga with 26 points.
Villarreal, have their own injury concerns and coach Pellegrini will have to field an unfamiliar side against Barcelona.
Turkish striker Nihat has been ruled out for the season after picking up a knee ligament injury in training on Monday.
Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has returned to Buenos Aires to witness the birth of his third child and will miss out on a return to the Nou Camp.
Robert Pires and Argentinean full-back Gonzalo Rodriguez are also sidelined with long-term injuries, although Mexican striker Guillermo Franco has recovered from a minor back injury and will sit on the bench.
The “Yellow Submarine" will be reliant upon former Manchester United target Marcos Senna and Spanish midfielder Cani to orchestrate things in midfield.
Jose Mari will start alongside Uruguay forward Diego Forlan in attack.
Pellegrini concedes that it is going to be a tough game at the Camp nou; "It is difficult enough to go to Barcelona but with the injuries we have, it will be even harder. Riquelme is also out and we will have to fight hard to get a result," he said.
Villarreal moved up into ninth place last week after an impressive 2-0 win over tough opponents Getafe.