Setien finds the right formula
Barcelona and Quique Setien headed into the game under pressure after three draws in four games which unsurprisingly prompted the coach to make changes for the match.
The 61-year-old tweaked his formation, brought in Sergi Roberto and Antoine Griezmann and must have watched on with pleasure as Barca put in a much-improved display
Luis Suarez and Grizemann both scored brilliant goals, while Lionel Messi was unlucky to see an effort disallowed for a tight offside but still ended the game with two assists.
Setien’s formation tweak seemed to bring out the best in Griezmann and, after a tough week, offers real optimism for the future.
Roberto stakes a claim
The presence of Sergi Roberto in midfield was a bit of a surprise but certainly paid off. The versatile 28-year-old added thrust and energy and put in the type of performance that means he may keep his place in midfield.
Roberto switched to right-back in the second half but spoke after the game about how his position on the left of midfield against Villarreal suited him perfectly.
“Tactically, it has been a while since I played there. Sometimes I play central midfield but on the right and today I was on the left side, where I am most comfortable. It’s where I played for Barça B.”
Setien was also full of praise for Roberto after the game. He described the Catalan’s performance as “spectacular” which suggests Roberto may have played his way into his plans.
Messi can’t stop assisting
Messi also came into the game under a bit of scrutiny after that report in midweek which had suggested he is thinking about leaving at the end of next season after becoming fed up with the Catalan giants.
The Argentina international certainly didn’t look unhappy on the pitch, producing a superb assist to set up Suarez and then another for Griezmann with a delicated little backheel on the edge of the penalty area.
Lionel Messi for Barcelona against Villarreal:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 5, 2020
❍ Most touches (113)
❍ Most duels (10)
❍ Most chances created (6)
❍ Most shots (4)
❍ Most take-ons completed (2)
❍ Most assists (2)
Messi, Messi, Messi. pic.twitter.com/soeyzAW6nP
Messi has now produced two assists in three of his last four away matches and basically ran the show from start to finish against the Yellow Submarine.
He has also now hit a personal best of 19 assists for the season and will surely go on to become the first player to reach 20 goals and assists in a single campaign.
Ansu hits Barca’s 9,000th goal
Quique Setien also remembered to use his substitutes properly on Sunday. Suarez was removed on the hour, while both Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati saw more game time.
Ansu offered another reminder of his talents with his sixth La Liga goal of the season. It was a very tidy finish from the youngster too.
He came in from the left and slotted the ball through Raul Albiol’s legs in a move which completely wrong-footed goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.
It also brought up a landmark for Barca:
M I L E S T O N E !— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 5, 2020
That strike by @ANSUFATI was the 9️⃣,0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣th goal in Barça history!
The goal also means that only Messi, Suarez and Griezmann have scored more goals than Ansu in the first team for Barca in what continues to be a memorable season for the teenager.
Barca keep faint title hope alive
Barca went into the match seven points behind Real Madrid after another controversial win for Los Blancos on Sunday and had to win to cut the gap and keep their fading title hopes alive.
The team duly obliged and will move just a point behind Real Madrid on Wednesday if they beat Espanyol at the Camp Nou. A win or a draw for Barca would also relegate their local rivals.
Gerard Pique insisted after the game his team would give it all to the end to try and retain their title, but the truth is with only four games left they will need a Real Madrid collapse to win La Liga.