Villarreal had Barcelona beaten, but...
A day of football, which started with Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid president, presenting his futuristic sardine can alongside a fair dose of low-ranking politicians eager for a portrait with the Superior Being and finished with a superb game, which we can likely place as the most thrilling and entertaining match we've seen so far in the league. Villarreal 4-4 Barcelona it finished, with two goals from Barça at the start and another two right at the very end, and four from Villarreal over the piece. Between the two events, Atlético beat Girona 2-0 with a hard-working performance which saw Griezmann find his goal-scoring touch again and Vitolo showing extremely hopeful signs of recovery.
This Saturday Atlético visit Barcelona. The last chance to at least act as if the Liga is still alive. Valverde's side are eight ahead, so if Atlético win the deficit will be cut to five, and we can say anything's possible. But despite dropping two points in Villarreal, Barcelona came out of the game feeling good, thanks to their final push which saw Messi score yet another free-kick (a fine blast into the corner) and Luis Suárez level right at the death. It's tough to beat Barça. Last night Villarreal were on the point of doing so, leading 4-2 right up to the end of regulation time, but Barcelona have the pride of champions.
It was a fantastic match, but there was a little more to it than meets the eye: Valverde left out Piqué, Rakitic and Messi from the starting line-up. The central defence pairing of Umtiti-Lenglet was a sieve, the midfield lacked bite and the attacking line-up of Malcom-Luis Suárez-Coutinho started well but then evaporated. Set against that Villarreal showed solidity at the back and pace and intelligence moving up the park, with the expertise of Cazorla and the brilliance of Chuckwueze. Messi came on in the 60th minute with the score at 4-2. Rakitic and Aleña too. The mission seemed an impossible one, but Álvaro's daftness, getting himself sent off, helped. Villarreal were devastated at the end, Barcelona delighted.