The game at the Camp Nou left us with a slightly bland result: a 2-1 win for the home side, and the kind of outcome that would be disregarded if it didn’t leave certain open-ended issues. It left Barça with three points, finally putting a smile on Valverde’s face – of late he’s been too reserved, which suits no one. It left us with Messi going down injured to swell the anxiety among Barça fans. It left us with Suárez being taken off to a cacophony of whistles and applause. It left us with the return of Dembélé, who replaced Messi, and with a display that was nothing to write home about. And, once again, it left us with some sparkling moments from Ansu Fati, the chosen one.
Ansu Fati steadies the ship
Barça were toiling and troubling when the youngster appeared. After an early, rapid-fire 2-0 lead that looked nailed on to end in a thrashing, things started to sway on 29 minutes with Messi’s grimaces and began to rumble when Cazorla pulled one back on the stroke of half-time. The situation worsened when a Messi-less Barça appeared after the break. Valverde opted for Dembélé ahead of Ansu Fati – who exactly should be ahead in the culé pecking order splits opinion down the middle. The truth is Villarreal posed a real threat that was only tamed when Ansu Fati replaced Luis Suárez.
Another test passed with flying colours
Mention must also be made of De Jong, who managed to bring calm and control when he came on, but it was Ansu Fati’s menacing runs that lifted the spirits in the stands and changed the mood of the whole team, enabling Barcelona to see out the game. The youngster didn’t get on the scoresheet, despite going close, but he did force Villarreal to change tack and threw them out of the comfort zone they were growing into with Barcelona’s play. In a nutshell, this was another test passed with flying colours for a player who promises greatness. Ansu Fati looks so happy on the ball that it’s hard to see anything really fazing him.