Last-gasp Barcelona rescue dramatic point at Villarreal
Late, late goals by Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez snatched a point for Barça in a thrilling LaLiga clash with Villarreal on Tuesday evening.
Villarreal 4-4 Barcelona: match report
Well, where to start? Ahead of their top-of-the-table clash with Atlético Madrid on Saturday, Barcelona's lead is cut to eight points - but, having trailed by two goals as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes against relegation-threatened Villarreal, it is with a sense of relief that Ernesto Valverde's men leave the Estadio de la Cerámica tonight, after they were rescued by two late, late stunners: yet another wonderful free-kick from the initially rested Lionel Messi, and an equally fine Luis Suárez drive - powered in with the very last kick of an incredible game.
But after being reduced to 10 men by Álvaro González's silly red card with five minutes left (more than a few accusatory glances will have been cast in the defender's direction in the dressing room, one suspects), Villarreal let slip a two-goal advantage for the second time in a week, and will be in the bottom three if Celta Vigo beat Huesca on Wednesday evening, as a scarcely believable last-gasp double salvo stretched Barça's unbeaten run in LaLiga to 18 games.
Villarreal 4-4 Barcelona: as it happened
Villarreal vs Barcelona: LaLiga preview
Ahead of headline match-ups with Atlético Madrid and Manchester United, LaLiga leaders Barcelona can kickstart an exacting week of football by taking another big step towards retaining their title at relegation-threatened Villarreal tonight (21:30 CEST).
Barcelona 10 points clear of Atlético, who are up next
On Saturday, a Lionel Messi brace earned the Blaugrana a 2-0 Catalan derby victory over Espanyol that maintained their 10-point lead over Atlético in second - and left Ernesto Valverde's men just six wins away from guaranteeing themselves a 26th Spanish championship.
They now go to the Estadio de la Cerámica in search of the first of those triumphs - against a side they haven't lost to in 11 years - before a top-of-the-table clash with Atlético on Saturday is followed by a Champions League quarter-final trip to Old Trafford four days later.
In a bid to ensure legs are fresh for the clashes to come, Valverde is expected to rotate to some extent - but on Monday admitted there's "never an ideal time" to rest key man Messi, who has netted no fewer than eight times in his last four games in all competitions for Barça.
Villarreal in major relegation trouble
Lining up opposite the visitors are a Villarreal side who are in real danger of going down - particularly after letting a two-goal lead slip to lose 3-2 at fellow strugglers Celta Vigo on Saturday.
After 15 minutes at Balaídos, goals by Toko Ekambi and Alfonso Pedraza, the latter a superb solo effort, looked to have left the Submarino Amarillo set fair to put real daylight - seven points, to be precise - between themselves and the 18th-placed Galicians.
However, Celta's Iago Aspas-inspired comeback dragged Villarreal to within a point of the drop zone and, unless Javi Calleja's side can put an end to their poor recent record against Barça, they could well end matchday 30 in the bottom three - and in a major fight to avoid a second top-tier relegation in seven years.