FC Barcelona had to endure a scrappy end to a very competitively intense match-up. Both progressively adamant sides, what was once Barcelona’s half to dominate, ended up being a brawl to the death where the Catalan defense once again ruled supreme courtesy of some monumental individual performances.
FC Barcelona took the initiative in this game to establish themselves as the protagonists early on. With quick one-touch passes and some visionary through-balls, the Catalans were adamant on taking that first goal.
Within the first 5 minutes, Pedri managed to break apart Villarreal’s high-line-based defensive structure with a calculated through ball to Robert Lewandowski. The latter ultimately failed to convert a chance he would normally have buried without any hesitancy, but as his form has dictated recently, the player seems to still be out of rhythm it appears.
Not long after, however, FC Barcelona did manage to break the deadlock. Courtesy of a quick succession of passes initiated by a crucial interception by Gavi, then a layoff to Raphinha by Frenkie De Jong, and this was then followed by a mesmerizing training ground one-two between the assister Lewandowski and the goalscorer Pedri. The youngster now becomes FC Barcelona’s 2nd highest top scorer this season after the veteran Polish striker himself.
Villarreal, while defensively vulnerable at times, were no slouch either. Two chances, in particular, fell to Morales, who uncharacteristically was not able to make the most of either. The Yellow Submarine was indefinitely showing signs of a team that would not be giving up just yet within the first 45 minutes.
Statistically, FC Barcelona managed to accumulate an xG of 1.12 during the first half of the game compared to Villarreal’s 0.68. Surprisingly however, the Catalans were bested for possession, with the home side holding a stronger hold of 54% of possession, while Xavi’s men had 46% of it.
Despite that, FC Barcelona were definitely the more dangerous-looking team, having had all 3 of their total shots be on target whereas Villarreal were only able to muster one shot on target out of their own total of 3.
As dominant as Barcelona could have hoped to be in the first half, they could not have expected a more tense arrival from the Yellow Submarine in the second one.
Despite no more goals having been scored, the second half definitely had FC Barcelona scrambling to take home all three points away from a match where performances by the likes of Ronald Araujo proved vital.
The Uruguayan was immense and ever-present. His clearances, motivation, and physical dominance were all key in ensuring it was La Blaugrana who alone went away with points won during the congested endgame that this match saw bring upon itself.
Swarmed by yellow jerseys for the final 10 minutes of the game consistently, it was the defense at the back that must be applauded for the win just as much as the forwards were during the first 45 minutes.
In terms of statistics, Barcelona managed a rather conservative xG during the second half, with a value of only 0.36, compared to Villarreal’s slightly better xG of 0.43. Villarreal also continued to dominate possession marginally and drastically having increased the total shots they took relative to their output in the first half.
FC Barcelona have now increased their lead at the top of the La Liga Santander table by 11 points as of right now. Real Madrid will soon face Elche in their upcoming league clash, but until then, the Catalans increase their splendid gap at the very top.
This win now sees Xavi’s Barcelona be unbeaten in the last 16 games overall and takes their point tally in La Liga to an impressive 56 points out of a possible theoretical total of 63 points from 21 games.