Ivan Rakitic omitted from Barcelona squad to face Villarreal

Ivan Rakitic has been left out of Barcelona’s squad for Sunday’s trip to Villarreal in La Liga.

The Croatia international midfielder had been an ever-present in Luis Enrique’s side since signing from Sevilla in 2014, but has found himself in-and-out of the team over the six weeks.

He was taken off at half-time in the draw with Real Sociedad, after an hour in the Clasico against Real Madrid and then missed Barca’s next three games, reappearing in a heavily rotated side in the Copa del Rey game against Hercules prior to Christmas.

Rakitic did start the first game of the New Year against Athletic Bilbao in midweek, completing 70 minutes before being replaced by Andre Gomes, but now finds himself excluded from the 18-man squad which travels to El Madrigal.

Given Madrid’s comprehensive win over Granada on Saturday, Luis Enrique is not expected to make too many changes with Barca six points behind their title rivals at the top of the table.

They go into the game in third place following Sevilla’s win over Real Sociedad, while Villarreal slipped from fourth to fifth as a result of Atletico Madrid’s victory at Elbar.

As well as Rakitic, defenders Aleix Vidal and Jeremy Mathieu have also been left out of Barca’s squad, while goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen remains sidelined with a calf injury.