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Soccer-Barcelona ready to ambush Villarreal, says Martino

Reuters

By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Leaders Barcelona need to reproduce the free-flowing tactics that allowed them to crush Celtic in the Champions League when they face a tricky La Liga outing against Villarreal this weekend, coach Gerardo Martino said.

The Catalan side shrugged off a recent dip in form, during which they were beaten by Ajax and Athletic Bilbao, with an inspired display to beat Celtic 6-1 on Wednesday.

After securing top spot in their Champions League group, they will be keen to preserve their number one status in La Liga, where they lead Atletico Madrid on goal difference.

"We need to keep playing like we did against Celtic and I think if we do that then we have a good chance of getting to the final of all the competitions this season," Martino told a news conference ahead of the match against fifth-placed Villarreal.

Villarreal returned to the top flight this season and have impressed with the quality of their football led by former-Barca player Giovani dos Santos in attack.

"They play the same way home and away. They have very strong players in all areas of the pitch," said Martino. "All games are tests and mistakes are expensive especially against a side like Villarreal who are strong."

Barca's form has been hit by the absence of Lionel Messi, Victor Valdes and Dani Alves but the list of those out injured has eased.

"We have to go bit by bit with players coming back and the last was Cristian Tello and now Cesc Fabregas is also available (after suspension)," said Martino, who is in his first season at the Nou Camp.

"It is important that the players return and get used to playing in their positions. I can learn more about them by watching them not just on the pitch but also in training and how they work.

"I didn't play (Andres) Iniesta against Celtic because he wasn't quite 100 percent but he could have come on if necessary. Now he is in a better condition to face Villarreal. Alves is almost ready and just needs a couple more training sessions."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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