Villarreal striker Giovani dos Santos has dismissed suggestions Barcelona are finding the going tough in the Primera Division this season as the two teams prepare to meet at the Nou Camp on Saturday.
The Catalan club suffered their first defeat of the league campaign against Athletic Bilbao recently and top the table on goal difference only from Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid three points further back.
That loss, which followed defeat at the hands of Ajax, had led to some criticism of Gerardo Martino's men but they have since responded with a victory over Cartagena in the Copa del Rey and a 6-1 midweek drubbing of Celtic in the Champions League.
Saturday's visit of fifth-placed Villarreal will be another test of their title credentials but former Barca forward Dos Santos expects the defending champions to be at the top of their game.
"Barcelona always have a great team, even when they are going through a rough patch as has been suggested," the Mexico international told Villarreal's website.
"They still have great players and, for me, are the best team in the world.
"I guess the league defeat stung their pride a little and now they want to react, as we saw on Wednesday. They could come out with more energy and more anger in this match at home."
Despite his admiration for his former employers, Dos Santos insists Villarreal will not be overawed by their trip to the Nou Camp.
"We will go there full of respect but not fear," he said. "We have our options and will play with the aim of getting a positive result.
"We definitely want to put on a great performance against a team like Barcelona. It's a good match to showcase our talents and we are very motivated. Everyone wants to shine."
Villarreal are unbeaten in their last four league matches and Barca coach Martino knows his players will be put to the test on Saturday, but remains hopeful their mini slump in form is behind them.
He told a press conference: "Out ultimate goal is to play better and I think we're getting there.
"That is the most important thing, giving yourself the chance to fight on all fronts.
"I have no reason to believe we are going to get worse. This is a group of players who are very much alive and are likely to continue to do well.
"The game against Villarreal is obviously one against a very strong team, so we have to be focused. We had to get out of our run of two successive defeats, we had to recover, but we've managed that and put on a great performance (against Celtic), which was the most important thing.
"We are now looking for a level of play that will give us a good performance against Villarreal."
Barca are without Dani Alves (leg) and Adriano (suspended) but welcome back Cesc Fabregas from his ban after missing the win over Celtic.