Villarreal 0 Barça 1

Tonight we took an enormous step to winning our third consecutive league title under Pep Guardiola with a hard earned victory at Villarreal. The fact that Real Madrid lost earlier at home to Sporting Gijon means our lead at the top is now 8 points on a day when many of us were worried our lead could be cut to 2 or 3 points. It should be the killer blow for Mourinho’s Madrid as it seems very unlikely that they can recovere the difference unless Barça decide to implode. However, there seems to be a real unity in the squad and with Guardiola at the helm there seems little chance of us dropping our guard.

Tonight we were without Abidal, Puyol, Xavi and Pedro and Guardiola decided to leave Leo Messi on the bench which is a decision that was probably taken earlier today although some will think that Pep made up his mind when the Madrid result came through. The team did not look particularly strong on paper. Busquets was preferred over Milito to partner Piqué at the back, Thiago was given the big resposibility to fill in for the suspended Xavi, while in attack Afellay played a proper winger’s role on the left, Villa stayed in the middle while Iniesta drifted in from the right to support midfield leaving the right flank open for Alves to attack.

The early signs were not good. Without Puyol and Abidal we are a bit slow at the back and as early as the fourth minute Mascherano had to clear up the danger created by Rossi’s speed. Then a couple of minutes later Cazorla sent in a pass that just eluded Piqué and Rossi was quicker than Busquets and suddenly face to face with Victor Valdés, fortunately our keeper made a superb leap to whip the ball off Rossi’s feet. At the other end we responded but Alves’s pass was just too long for Iniesta, and soon after Iniesta’s cross was cleared after a neat piece of skill from Thiago. However, the host were looking the more dangerous and in the 12th minute it was Cazorla’s pass again that found Rossi between our centre backs and Valdés was again called upon to parry Rossi’s quick shot.

After this we began to settle down a bit. Mascherano played deep between Busquets and Piqué and the supply to Rossi began to dry up, but we were not doing much going forward. Eventually we started getting closer to goal, Afellay put in a dangerous low cross to where Pedro might have been if he were playing but Iniesta was a couple of yards short of arriving, and then Piqué might have done better to control the ball after a corner came his way, but we didn’t manage a shot on goal until the 39th minute when Adriano cut in and fired straight at Diego Lopez from 25 yards. David Villa had been very quiet but in the 42nd minute Iniesta slipped a neat ball through but Catalá was very quick to intercept to deny our striker.

We looked much better from the start of the second half. Iniesta had a shot tipped over and then Villa turned brilliantly away from Gonzalo but his shot was disappointing. Then in the 53rd minute Guardiola brought on Messi for Keita and we began to take over complete control of the game. The combinations between Messi, Iniesta and Thiago began to mesmerize Villarreal and it looked like the goal would have to come. Alves and Afellay attacked well down both sides and Afellay had a good effort in the 66th minute though his shot went straight at the keeper.

And then came the goal. We won a corner on the right, Thiago centred, Busquets flicked on to Piqué who controlled with his chest, though the ball appeared to touch his arm after the chest, and then fired home in the top of the net. From here on in the game looked safe as Villarreal were clearly tiring. We looked for a second but Diego Lopez denied Messi from a delightfully floated free kick, and then he saved from Alves. However, with the score as it stood there was always the danger of a goal out of the blue and it very nearly came in the 86th minute when Valdés somehow saved with his legs a volley from Cazorla which looked a certain goal. There wasn’t time for much after that though Valdés and Busquets managed to get tactical fifth yellow cards which means they will miss next week’s gam,e with Almeria and thus be available for the Clasico in two weeks.

This is a win that is well worth celebrating, with just eight games remaining it is very difficult for Madrid to catch us now even if they could manage to beat us at the Bernabeu. We have 81 points after just 30 games which is yet another record for La Liga. We could in theory still win 105 points this season though I have a feeling that the lack of the strong challenge maintained last season by our opponents we will inevitably drop points in the final games.

Tonight we proved we can win away to tough opponents without several players starting. We may have a short squad but players such as Adriano and particularly Mascherano are proving to be very good buys, while Afellay also impressed today. I just hope he can step up a little bit more and he could turn out to be an excellent player for us too. However, the biggest praise today should go to Victor Valdés who made three excellent stops which would have seen us drop points otherwise, while I also thought Iniesta had a very good game, I loved how he supported Thiago throughout who also deserves a massive thumbs-up today, despite getting caught in possession a couple of times he gave a pretty mature display.

Next up it’s Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday who could also test the pace of our back line. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep up the high level of concentration we are going to need and we should by no means underestimate Shakhtar. The good news is we should have both Xavi and Messi starting for that game which will give the Ukranians something more to worry about.

Barça: Valdés 9; Alves 7.5, Piqué 6.5, Busquets 6.5, Adriano 7; Thiago 7, Mascherano 8, Keita 6 (Messi m53, 7); Iniesta 8, Villa 6 (Bojan m71, 6), Afellay 7 (Johnathan dos Santos m84, –).

Goal: m67 Piqué 0-1.

Barça yellows: m40 Piqué, m55 Alves, m93 Valdés, m93 Busquets

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This entry was posted in Andres Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, La Liga, Match reports, Victor Valdés and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Villarreal 0 Barça 1

  1. wikd14 says:

    Hello Nic 🙂
    Hello everyone 🙂

    First of all sorry for not posting since we moved here but I was really busy in my new career changes. However, I am still faithful for our blog and I keep checking it on daily basis.

    BBoy thanks a lot for assuring the continuity of this blog and in convincing Nic to supervise the blog.

    Yesterday, was sure a historical day for the “Special One” 😀
    He lost to a bottom table team @ home grounds.

    Thiago was so promising and he did really great in med field. If we weren’t competing on many competitions. We should invest in Thiago rather than buying the most expensive substitute in Barca’s history (Cesc) although both are worth it!

    We weren’t on par with our most creative display but we did live up to our standards. Guys check the figures.

    I have high hopes for our Shakhtar game but we shouldnt underestimate them cuz they are really good for a Ukrainian team. Also, they have Chyg our good defender who didnt get a chance 😦

  2. hardcoreFCBARCELONEAN says:

    We definitely got an important victory last night. Not the best of performances, but definitely a vital 3 points. The game against Shaktar would be absolutely tricky. They have a good strikeforce, and we’d have to be wary about DOUGLAS COSTA….speedy, very creative, very2 good on the ball.

  3. barcacentralroger says:

    Great write-up Nic – you have an amazing ability to pick the best match photos!

    Just to say – to the wider community – unfortunately I’ve had to step away from writing for the blog due to work commitments but stand by Wikd14’s comments that in Nic and Blau we have two of the best sports-bloggers around keeping us up to date and frenetically analyzing all thing Barca.

    Definitely agree – man of the match for us was VValdes.

    I watched the Madrid game and by the end was entirely torn – obviously Real losing helps in every way, taking all kinds of pressure off us, but I almost wanted them to equalise just so that OUR team could have broken Jose’s 9 year record of no home league defeats… Oh well.

  4. blaugranaboy says:

    thanks for the comments above guys, it is appreciated.

    last night’s game was far from memorable and in the first half a little dull and cagey, but the result was pretty enormous. we were very professional and composed, doing what was necessary to win without risking much. besides his goal even, i thought pique had a pretty stellar game. masch also was very good and those moments where he comes in with a perfect challenge when the other team is breaking make me smile.

    but, without question, and it seem most agree (thankfully) the man of the match was victor valdes. he is the most focused goalkeeper in the game. he sits for minutes on end without having to do anything but when the time comes, he rarely fails. the first stop on rossi, when he just stole the ball from his feet was brilliant. then that final stop from cazorla, magnificent. its so great, for me in particular, that a player ive supported since his debut season, had plenty of debates with friends and people here, always telling them how great he is, has come to prove true the last seasons. he has made plenty people eat crow!

    however, i still dont think we are playing to our abilities. going forward its not at lethal as it has been or should be, and sadly villa has to take a lot of this on himself. even last night, 2nd half, we had a few really dangerous breakaways after the goal, where we had a decent 4 on 3 situation or the like, and the decision making and the execution are not there. the wrong ball is played, the player tries to take that extra dribble. this is something we have noticed and ive complained about for months now and i fear it is going to cost us.

    i watched the madrid game too and it was great! honestly, as i loved that it was preciado who did this to mou after the personal battle and genuine dislike between them. mou was so arrogant and shitty towards preciado a few months back, but oh my, that must have tasted so sweet for him.

    onto champions league! the preview will be up tuesday night

  5. Edward says:

    I didn’t get the opportunity to watch the match, but I saw that Thiago completed 123 passes – wow! I love to watch this youngin’ play, can anyone comment on his performance?

  6. blaugranaboy says:

    thiago had a very competent and confident game. i wanted to comment on him actually. he is always willing and hungry to receive the past and what i like about him most is that he moves it really quickly. his passes are pristine and he can really wrap his foot around it both ways to get crazy angles. he also has natural dribbling ability which makes him quite a flair player to watch. he had one move in particular and then little dink through ball to iniesta (i think) which was delightful. looks a great talent and im now converted to thinking he is the next big masia product, when at the start of the year i felt dos santos would be.

  7. caleb says:

    I definitely don’t want us to get Cesc at the expense of Thiago. Watch, we’ll buy Cesc for an exorbitant fee. Then Thiago will leave because he has no chance to play. Wenger will buy him for nothing. Then, 4 years down the road, we’ll pay a huge fee to bring Thiago back, probably forcing another great midfield starlet to leave…

    • Josher says:

      i agree, leave cesc where he is. he is either injury prone or cannot play an entire season. either way barca is better off w/o him, spend that money on a cb/defensive midfielder like mascherano and thiago will come through. bojan is also going to come through slowly but surely. bojan is only 7 months older than thiago and i wish he would have spent more time at barca b (i’m even for busting his ass back to barca b just so he can get some playing time and be match fit).

  8. Mike M says:

    Great performance, and even better being 8 points ahead of Madrid.

    Thiago showed some great promise, showing people tht he is ready to be in the first team. Cesc Who?

    ha ha no really, there is no need to waste money getting Fabregas when we’ve got Thiago and JDS. Rather get a centre back, although we can fish for one from Barca B.

    Fabregas decided to leave Barca and that’s the way it should stay… He just wants to come back to give his career some gloss by actually winning trophies and now that he sees Baca are winning trophies by the bucket load he want to join in. But if he wants to come so bad, the he must hand in a transfer request or buy out his contract and come on a free.

    Basck to the game, Valdes was brilliant, keptus in the game while denying Villareal at every turn.

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