Barcelona was able to take back first place in the La Liga, after beating Villarreal yesterday 2-0. Ernesto Valverde was interviewed by reporters before the game, and he talked about how youngster Carles Alena was going to see some playing time against Villarreal. Alena is 20 years old and has been at Barcelona for his whole career. He has seen the field before for Barcelona’s A team, but usually he plays in the early rounds of the Copa del Ray. Valverde really wants to give Alena a lot of exposure with the senior team. Alena was subbed onto the field in the 70 minute, and Barcelona’s play was definitely different when he was brought onto the pitch.
Both, Barcelona and Villarreal came out strong, having goal scoring opportunities come very early. Barcelona got lucky after Moreno got the best of Lenglet and smashed the ball off of the right post. Barcelona were able to find the back of the net first in the 35 minute through Gerard Pique. Ousmane Dembele had his corner sent back to him, so he swung another ball in that was able to find the head of Pique, and he guided the ball past Villarreal’s goalkeeper, Asenjo. Asenjo did an incredible job in the first half, only letting in Pique’s goal but snuffing out two good attempts from Lionel Messi.
Lionel Messi was all over the Villarreal defense, having shots being saved left and right. He couldn’t find the back of the net but he was the one who assisted Alena for his first senior goal. Messi picked up the ball on the right side of the field in Villarreal’s defensive third and fed a through ball behind the defense to Alena. Alena picked up the ball at the top of the box and chipped the ball over Asenjo’s right shoulder, putting the final nail in the coffin.
I believe this win over Villarreal shows us one big thing.. It shows that Gerard Pique is back in form. Barcelona held the clean sheet against Villarreal and Pique was a key player in denying Villarreal’s offense from scoring any goals. Barcelona had a shaky start to the season, losing to Real Betis and Leganes, but their form since then has improved greatly. They are be trailed by Sevilla, who are in second place with 27 points. For Champions League, Barcelona is in the Round of 16, having won their group.
Barcelona will play Cultural Leonesa, in the Round of 32 for the Copa del Ray. That game will be on December 5, at 3:30 PM (EST).