The faces may change, but the story remains the same. Barcelona went home with all three points today courtesy of a goal in the 82nd minute by Sandro, while Villarreal could only ponder on a couple of opportunities that hit the woodwork with keeper Claudio Bravo beaten.
Uche's late scratch meant Villarreal didn't really have a 4-4-2, and unlike last time the two teams met, Villarreal really didn't see that much of the ball. Possession stats were nearly 80-20 Barca.
Villarreal's best chance came late on when Tomas Pina hit the post; earlier than that, Jeremy Mathieu nearly scored an own goal for Barca, deflecting a Cani pass onto the post. But Villarreal just didn't create much and struggled to win much of the ball.
A draw would have been perhaps fair in spite of this, but 8 minutes from time the goal came that gave Barca all three points. I suppose this isn't a match we could have expected to win, but the lack of attacking opportunities was disappointing. When you sit back and hope to counter, but you can't control the ball long enough to do that, it's hard to expect much.
Espinosa and Vietto came on for Cheryshev and Cani, and Vietto might have scored an equalizer late on, but the lesson here--as we have said over and over since last fall--is when you don't have a single "go-to" striker, you need to create lots of opportunities in order to finish them off. 9 shots is not enough, especially when only 5 came from open play.
Now there is an international break--we have a friendly Wednesday against Celtic, but then 11 days pass before we travel to Granada on Sunday September 14. This should give Uche time to heal, and hopefully Jaume Costa and Bojan Jokic as well. Gabriel had to come on when Costa was injured today. If one of them is unable to return to action quickly, look for Adrian Marin to get some time with the first team.
A disappointing day, Marcelino will probably do some reflecting on his tactics, but hardly points we expect many clubs to gather. Endavant!