x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

No chinks in Barcelona's armour

If a team as talented and motivated as Villarreal get destroyed by Barca, what chance have the rest? Aside from Real, of course.

Lionel Messi, centre, combined well with Barcelona's new recruits.
Lionel Messi, centre, combined well with Barcelona's new recruits.

New season, same old story in Spain.

After a players' strike over unpaid wages delayed the start of the Primera Liga by a week, normal service resumed in more ways than one with Barcelona and Real Madrid both enjoying emphatic victories. Real beat Zaragoza 6-0 away, with Cristiano Ronaldo hitting a hat-trick and Mesut Ozil looking imperious.

Jose Mourinho's antics may deflect attention from his team, which is a shame as Mourinho's Real continue to play enthralling, attacking football.

Barca followed their great rivals by thumping Villarreal 5-0 at Camp Nou on Monday night. Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas scored on their league debuts as the Catalans aim for a club record fourth successive league title under Pep Guardiola, while Lionel Messi combined well with Barca's new recruits.

Those searching for chinks in Barca's seemingly impenetrable armour last season cited a weaker bench than Real's.

Close season acquisitions ensured that argument holds less weight, and a bold 3-4-3 formation meant Barca enjoyed the luxury of bringing on Xavi as substitute as Guardiola found space for Thiago Alcantara in his starting XI.

The star of Barca's pre-season did not disappoint, running at the Villarreal defence and guiding a shot low past Diego Lopez for the opening goal.

As brilliant as the performances of Spain's top two were, they also showed evidence of an ever widening gap between the rest of the league.

Villarreal have a fine record at Camp Nou, and are one of the few teams with the audacity and talent to attack the Catalans away.

After last season's match, Guardiola lavished praise on Juan Carlos Garrido's Yellow Submarines, describing them as "one of the best teams in the world".

Garrido nodded and said: "We showed that we can play against Barcelona in Camp Nou.

"We have a very clear philosophy of how football should be played here at Villarreal, and that doesn't change from the young players to the first team.

"We play an attacking 4-4-2 style where we like to dominate games."

So much has changed in a season, and there were no similar comments from the coaches this time. Garrido's side enjoyed just 22 per cent of the possession and Barca completely dominated, despite having won the European Super Cup on Friday against Porto in Monaco.

If a team as talented and motivated as Villarreal get destroyed by Barca, what chance have the rest?

Aside from Real, of course.

 

sports@thenational.ae


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