Barcelona defeated a defensive-minded Villarreal side thanks to a late strike from 19-year-old Sandro who is thankful for the sweet cross from Lionel Messi. This match was played with mid-season pace even though it was only Week 2 in La Liga.
Ivan Rakitic added a bit of much-needed aerial passing as the team was only passing from the ground left-to-right or front-to-back. His presence was felt by both opponents and teammates alike as he was in the right place and almost always sent the right pass to the best positioned guy in blue.
Youngster Rafinha should not be starting over Xavi Hernandez as he adds leadership and an already proven know-how of the game played by the Blaugrana. The goal was scored after the captain stepped onto the field and sprinted all around the middle of the park, looking for possession to open the game up for his team.
Neymar jumped off the bench for 18-year-old Mounir El Haddadi and added pace, skill and urgency to the left side of the field for Barcelona. The substitute sent the initial through-ball which Messi used to square to the goal line for Sandro to unmistakably hammer in.
Messi, Neymar, Rakitic, Dany Alves and Gerard Pique will be the key players for Barcelona this season. With their usual 4-3-3 formation allowing them most of the possession during each game, they should have a lot to say.
One negative note from Barcelona’s side is that they were slightly susceptible when facing a counter because their wing backs consistently push up the field. A last-ditch effort by center back Jeremy Mathieu sent the ball off of his own post during an attempt to clear. He also failed to clear the ball during another play on which Villarreal really should have capitalized.
The three-man midfield and front line is strong, but the defense has to position perfectly at all times in order to avoid any sort of unnecessary danger.
As for Villarreal, this is a team that lost 3-2 at home to Barca last season due to missed chances and slightly lazy defending late in the game. Today, the team tried to defend a lot more and hit on the counter. However, due to missed chances and one horrible mistake, they lost by only one goal, dropping all three points.
Matching Barcelona’s 4-3-3 was a smart approach to the game, but they did have trouble possessing the ball as much due to intimidation and relentless pressure from the visitors. They will have to take more chances in future games and look to build from the back by slowing the pace down instead of rushing in on the counter.
Frankly, the home side was outshouted and outplayed overall which is why they lost. If they would like to defeat teams of Barcelona’s caliber, they have some work to do in all aspects of the game.