On the heels of an exciting previous match weekend — as well as a much needed weeklong break — Barca was back in action to take on La Liga mainstays Villarreal.
This match was away from the Camp Nou and at the Estadio de la Cerámica, a venue known for making things difficult for incoming visitors. But Barca needed to dig down and find the avenue for a win, which would be important for their La Liga title hopes.
How did the match play out?
Well, let’s just say it was an interesting one.
The first half saw Barca struggle to control the match out of the gate.
Villarreal’s ability to press Barca high and fend off Barca’s own press, made life a little difficult for the Catalan club on Sunday evening.
Despite that though, feelings were positive as Barca were able to create a very dangerous scoring chance early on. This time from the main man Robert Lewandowski, who found himself in a very interesting spot to score the match’s first tally.
Lewandowski almost scores inside 4 minutes
The action was simple really, with Pedri slowly strolling on the right side of the midfield, prodding and looking for any options.
He suddenly found Lewandowski, by firing a delicate through ball to give the Polish star a 1v1 opportunity to Villarreal keeper Pepe Reina.
Unfortunately for Barca though, Lewandowski’s shot was sent straight at Reina and eventually saved.
The goal didn’t come for Barca, but the early threatening actions were surely an indicator for more success throughout the match.
That notion was proven even more so 15 minutes later, when Pedri found himself in on goal himself.
Pedri gives Barca an early lead
This time, it was Lewandowski who sent Pedri in on goal after a wonderful exhibition of quick, touch passing from Barca in Villarreal’s final third.
Lewandowski’s flick of a pass gave Pedri an easy 1v1 situation with Reina, but this time without any defender hounding on his back. All Pedri had to do was slide it past Riena and into the back of the net, which he did in a calm and collected way.
In a tough environment like this, it’s best to take the energy out of the crowd early, so you can potentially begin to stack on the goals as the match wears on.
That’s exactly was Pedri did, which was a big time development for Barca.
But weirdly enough, the positivity didn’t exactly start raining down in bunches for Barca after the goal. IN fact, Villarreal were the ones who turned up the pressure and forced Barca to feel some heat of their own.
None more bigger than minutes into first half injury time, when José Luis Morales had a very good chance to equalize the match at 1-1. Luckily for Barca, his shot didn’t even approach the target, as it roamed off the side netting and out of play.
With that, halftime arrived, and probably at a good time for Barca.
They were starting to lose the little control they had left at the end of the half, with Villarreal potentially smelling blood in the water.
Barca needed a more tedious second half to take home another set of 3 points, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Because in the second half, Barca needed every ounce of will and strength to preserve the slim advantage they had.
This second half was a pretty up and down one for Barca.
In the initial stages, there were more chances created to increase Barca’s 1-0 lead. Raphina had a chance just after 60 minutes to give Barca another goal.
But his right footed shot went wide of the post and out of play.
Pedri had another chance just after 65 minutes, but his effort was wide of the goal as well. Barca were truly reverting back to their old ways of missing clean cut chances, which in a match like this, could’ve potentially killed them.
It almost did too, as Villareal created a number of good looking chances in the second half.
Fortunately for Barca, none of those were converted on, in fact most of them didn’t even involve a shot attempt.
The brilliance of Ronald Araujo, who put in several important challenges, clearances, and run downs to prevent Villarreal from even sniffing a hint of goal.
Without him, Barca doesn’t win this match, ask any fan and they’d probably say the same. He was an absolute rock, putting in a performance that only echoed best in the world shouts for him, which at this point seem more like legit shouts instead of biased ones.
As you’ve probably guessed by the tone, Barca did indeed win the match. But not without — once again — and up and down second half that could’ve turned the tides either way.
Whatever the case may be, good win for Barca, who’ll have a pretty tough test on Thursday against Manchester United.
Well, this wasn’t a clean match by any means.
Barca struggled to really control this match throughout the full 90 minutes, mostly due to Villarreal’s pressure and ability to fend off Barca’s press.
This left Barca with the job of defending a little more than they’ve been used to, but despite that, they didn’t falter and found a way to win another rough, but important match away from the Camp Nou.
These are the wins that, again, can really gear you towards winning titles at the end of the season, so I’m sure Xavi and his staff — despite their likely intention of controlling the match from start to finish — will take their wins wherever and whenever they can get them.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Thursday night, as they welcome Manchester United to the Camp Nou. This’ll be the opening leg of Barca’s Round of 32 affair with the English giants, with the second leg coming on February 23rd at Old Trafford.
See you all then!