x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Henry injury a blow for Barca

Pep Guardiola's Barcelona will not forget the first week of May. Six goals against Real Madrid and scenes of joyous abandon against Chelsea.

BARCELONA // Pep Guardiola's Barcelona will not forget the first week of May 2009. Six goals against Real Madrid and scenes of joyous abandon after Andres Iniesta's injury time tie clincher at Chelsea. Even their normally ultra cool coach danced along for touchline for that one. Back in Catalonia, club president Joan Laporta boasted of 348 text messages of congratulation received in London and Guardiola described their endeavours as being "like a dream".

The mood was tempered, however, ahead of tonight's Primera Liga home game to Villarreal with the news that French striker Thierry Henry may miss the Champions League final against Manchester United on May 27. Henry damaged a cruciate ligament in the 6-2 Bernabeu victory and will miss tonight's encounter against sixth-placed Villarreal, Wednesday's Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao in Valencia and forthcoming league games against Real Mallorca and Osasuna.

Barca lead Spain's top flight by seven points with four games to play, their 85 points already equalling the highest points tally for a side in the league's history. The Catalans need just one point from four matches to break Real's 85 point record from 38 games, achieved last season. Villarreal are tough opponents. They won the equivalent fixture last season and are desperate for victory to boost their Champions League qualification hopes. "The Barcelona players will be very tense and worn out," offered Villarreal striker Joseba Llorente. "We can take advantage of the situation."

Llorente may have misread the mood for they'll be playing in front of a capacity Camp Nou crowd. If Real failed to win at Valencia late last night, Barca will be champions if they beat Villarreal. Lionel Messi, who looked fatigued against Chelsea, said: "We have everything in our own hands. There's not far left to go, but it's all happening so quickly that we don't have time to take it all in." Another record is in Barca's sight: their 100 league goals so far are seven short of the tally set by John Toshack's Real in 1989-90.

In tonight's other games, fifth placed Atletico Madrid - on the same points as Villarreal but a healthier goal difference - entertain in form Espanyol. Booed off the field by their own dissatisfied fans after their last home game, winger Simao Sabrosa hopes for a better reception, saying: "Now is the time to do the talking on the pitch." amitten@thenational.ae Barcelona v Villarreal, KO 9pm, Aljazeera Sport + 2