Barcelona hosted Villareal on Match Day 14 at Camp Nou. Barcelona’s form in la liga has been scratchy off late with a draw against Atletico and a loss against Betis in their last 2 matches. Meanwhile Villareal has been languishing in 17th place in la liga, though their confidence would have been boosted with a win against Betis in their last match. Barcelona’s last loss against Villareal at home was in the 2007-08 season, while notching up an impressive 7 wins and 2 draws during that period.
Formation and Lineups
Barcelona were unchanged from their match against PSV with Messi, Dembélé and Coutinho upfront with a midfield of Rakitic, Vidal and Busquets. Pique and Lenglet were in the central defence with Alba and Semedo as the fullbacks.
Villareal started with a 4-2-3-1 with Gerard Moreno as the lone striker. The midfield had the notable inclusion of Santi Cazorla who returned this season to la liga after his stint with Arsenal.
Barcelona started brightly and managed to pin Villareal in their own half. Dembélé especially looked bright, turning the defender wrong way multiple times in one of his many pacy runs. Barça almost gave away the lead due to a miscommunication between Lenglet and Ter Stegen in dealing with a high bouncing ball, however Gerard Moreno could only hit the post.
Messi and Vidal played some lovely one-twos eventually releasing Alba on the left whose cross found Dembélé , who twisted and turned his marker before unleashing a drive that Caseres blocked.
Barça finally took the lead in the 37thminute thanks again to a lovely cross from Dembélé . After winning a corner, his intial corner was blocked however his second attempt found an unmarked Gerard Pique who headed hom the opener. Messi almost doubled the lead when he found some space around the six-yard area after the usual cutback from Jordi Alba after a brilliant Dembélé dink over the top. However his effort was saved by Asenjo. Barça ended the first half with 73% possession.
Villareal started the second half strongly enjoying a long possession but with no clear-cut chances. The impressive Vidal was replaced by Carles Alenya with 20 minutes to go much to his disappointment. Coutinho, after his trademark move of cutting in from the wing curled a shot from outside the box only to narrowly miss the top right corner.
Barça finally sealed the match in the 85thminute, when Messi released Alenya with a brilliant throughball and the youngster calmly chipped it over the oncoming Asenjo to make it 2-0.
- Dembélé’s Continued Progress
Dembélé’ continues to impress and he was by far the best player on the night for Barça. His pace was visible for everyone as he beat defenders for fun. It seems his understanding with Messi is getting better, which is a big positive. He didn’t lose too many balls and looked confident on the ball. His pace and runs caused Villarreal all sort of problems as he put in another effective display. He still needs to work on his decision making skills, but he can only get better from here.
- Vidal’s Adaptation
When Arturo Vidal was signed this season, there wasn’t much excitement; in fact majority of Culés were disappointed. It’s been quite a turnaround when the camp nou whistled yesterday expressing their disappointment of subbing off Vidal. He seems to be a much better version of Paulinho and should have been the player signed instead of Paulinho when the Board were looking for someone of this profile. Like Paulinho, he seems to have developed a very good understanding with Messi as it was evident against Villareal. His work ethic was never in doubt, but his passing is much better than Paulinho. Though he should never be a regular starter but his skills would come in handy against tougher physical opponents.
- Gerard Piqué Impresses
This was Piqué’s best performance in sometime. He looked his calm self under the ball, his distribution was good and also scored the opening goal. Piqué’s form this season has been scratchy, but this performance should give him a lot of confidence.
¡Visca el Barça!
Ter Stegen- 6/10
- Had very little do, but was lucky that Moreno’s shot hit the post.
- He kept Moreno in check. He was solid defensively and made a crucial body block in the 85th minute. He scored the crucial opening goal.
- He picked up a yellow card which could have easily been avoided. Otherwise was strong in defense.
- He was impressive in his linkups with Dembélé and also made crucial interceptions early on.
- He was good in both attack defense, but couldn’t link up with Messi much.
- Typical Busquets game though he got away with a yellow after a naughty challenge on Fornals.
- He was good defensively and made a couple of crucial interventions. But there was nothing going forward.
- His understanding with Messi is getting better. He was lively and his intensity was top class. The crowd whistled when he was taken off expressing their displeasure of his subbing off.
- Apart from a curling shot that missed the top right corner, He didn’t offer much.
- Though not at his very best, still managed to bag a brilliant assist.
Dembélé – 8/10
- The best player for Barça on the night yet again. His pacey runs on the right and his linkups with Semedo were a delight to watch.