With all the (merited) criticism of the Spanish league and their inability to manage the game for the general good, let's give La Liga credit for getting something right, shall we?
A Villarreal-Barca doubleheader, with the first-team game kicking off at 10pm in Vila-real, was a great decision. There were over 4,000 fans at the B-team game four hours before, many of whom then headed to El Madrigal in time to cheer the Submarine players as they got off their buses and headed to the dressing rooms.
And the stadium was packed with fans, balloons, banners, etc.; it really was a 'fiesta of football'. And of course VillarrealUSA was all set up to celebrate a win in their first game as part of the SBN family...
but unfortunately, our opponents refused to go along with the script.
I don't intend here to rehash the first-team game in detail; maddi already wrote an excellent though pessimistic summary. Coach Garrido's summary was more optimistic but also perceptive.
For all of Barcelona's possession, their goal and best other chance came from a corner and a free kick; open play produced little. David Villa was almost invisible.
We deserved a point from the match, we didn't get it. Let's not obsess about it. I'd rather talk about our cantera, because I don't know how many of you saw the B-team game, and it was fun to watch!!
Both filial squads were missing key players through injury and callup to the parent teams, but there was plenty of talent on the pitch nonetheless. There were more goals than in the game that followed, but in some ways it turned out to be a preview of the main event.
Villarreal took a 2-1 lead into the halftime break and yet you felt when several chances for a third goal went begging we were going to regret it, and we did. A defensive breakdown on a free kick led to a tying goal and then the gamewinner came via a deflection that left our keeper with no chance. On balance the Mini Submarine deserved a draw, I'd say, but didn't get it. No question that Barca's cantera team would win most of the matches between the two though.
Barcelona B could probably stroll into the Primera and finish in the mid-table--they're that good. When you consider they're fourth in the Segunda, and they really don't have anything to play for, that shows their quality. I wasn't that impressed with their goalkeeper, but I was with most everyone else, especially Soriano and Carmona. And Thiago's brother. (which reminds me, why do Barca need Cesc, exactly? Come on now).
As for Villarreal B, they are not as strong across the board (especially at the back right now), but they do have some fine players. Hernán Pérez, Iago Falqué, Diego Mariño were impressive yesterday, as also Marcos Gullón and Castellani, who only recently returned from injury but looked good in his start.
The Mini Submarine struggled on defense early this year but after some teething pains our back four of Kiko, Jaime Costa, Truyols and Mano seemed to jell. Unfortunately, the first was promoted to the big club, the second was suspended, and the third is injured and out for the rest of the season. Dervite, Carlos Tomás and Hector are a step down, and they are not used to playing together. The Mini Subs have lost 5 of 6 now, and the defense is a main reason why. And any team that brings on Marquitos as a first sub has depth issues, wouldn't you say? No such issues for Barca B, for sure.
Villarreal B has slipped into a mid-table position again; they're better than that, but I think to compete in the Primera they would need to add a couple of older players, maybe one in the back and another in the middle to keep the team moving forward. Sometimes they need to take a more direct approach and get the front players more involved.
And let's not forget Javi Gracia is learning on the job as coach of this team--he doesn't have the experience of most Segunda coaches, much less Primera. Still, the goal for this season for the cantera team had to be simply to remain in the Segunda, and that should be achieved.
Earlier this year Sr. Roig was quoted as saying if Villarreal had an extra €15-20 million a year from TV rights, the team could compete with the big two. And that's probably about right, in part because then you can give your cantera players a little more time to develop, the way Barca does. We have to fast-track our players more, and that doesn't always work (see: Montero).
It's great that Marcos Gullón, at least, has been allowed to develop at the B-level; he's ready to make the jump I think. Iago Falqué is sort of a special case, because he came up through Barca's system. He's ready for the next level, assuming we sign him to a long-term deal once his loan ends.
And wow, what a week for Hernán Pérez. Paraguay defeats the USA on a goal from his corner that was conceded because of his attacking play, and then he scores two against Barca B. You sorta knew it wasn't going to be our day when he lost his balance just as he was getting ready to smash a third goal into the net, and came off injured. Hopefully it was nothing worse than a twisted knee. We need to make sure we keep him, because not only is he good, he's the sort of player we have success with at the first level.
In spite of the results, it was indeed a fiesta of football, and we thank our friends at Barca Blaugranes for sharing it with us, and making us feel so welcome here at SBN. Endavant Villarreal!!