Koeman era begins with Ansu Fati-inspired 4-0 rout of Villarreal
Barcelona vs Villarreal live online: as it happened
The Ronald Koeman era at Barcelona got off to the best possible start for the Dutchman as he seeks to heal the wounds of last season and a summer of discontent still simmering in Camp Nou. Providing some decent football on the pitch is as good a place to start as any and by partnering Ansu Fati with Leo Messi the Dutchman did just that.
The teenaged Spain international was in electric form, scoring the first two goals before handing Messi the opportunity to score in a 17th consecutive season for Barcelona from the spot. Koeman spoke of younger players coming through when discussing the departure of Luis Suárez and while it is far too early to talk of torches being passed, Ansu gave further evidence that there is a future for the club after the inevitable departure or retirement of its still-burning talisman. Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho also thrived in Barça’s new system, another green tick for Koeman: repurposing some €300m is a more attractive prospect for the club’s accountants than spending it.
The unfortunate Pau Torres turned in Messi’s cross at the end of the first half to send Unai Emery’s side into the dressing room 4-0 down after 45 minutes and as a spectacle the game pretty much ended there as well. There were flashes of interest from the home side and a late attempt to reduce the deficit from the visitors, spurred by the introduction of Take Kubo, but this was as smooth a first day at the office as Koeman could have hoped for, aided by Villarreal’s suicidal first-half high defensive line and a damage limitation policy from Emery after the break.
Both managers will have harder and easier assignments this campaign but Koeman at least can look forward to a comfortable week in terms of external scrutiny. Whether this proves a genuine bridge between the woes of last season and a glorious new dawn under the Dutchman will take longer to ascertain but for now Koeman has bought himself some goodwill.
And that's it! A stroll in the park for Barcelona in the end, who barely moved out of second gear to see off a Villarreal side that were never in the game.
Lenglet intervenes to prevent Estupiñán finding Bacca unattanded at the back post.
And the new boy is handed the chance to test Asenjo but sends his effort fizzing wide of the near post.
Free for Barça, Pjanic eyeing it up...
Messi twists and turns to try and carve out a shooting opportunity but it guided away from the sticks.
It's a right old shambles at the back for Villarreal as they fail to clear an innocuous ball, giving Barça several bites at the cherry that they somehow fail to take.
Kubo has improved Villarreal considerably since coming on, running at the Barça back four and opening up space for his colleagues.
Moreno goes in the book for a crack on Piqué's shins as the Barça defender was guiding a ball out for a goal kick. Frustration there from the lone forward, who has not had much support this half.
So close for Villarreal! Moi feeds Estupiñán and he sends a cannonball towards Kubo. All the Japanese forward needs to do it to turn it in but the ball had so much on he barely tickled the logo on its way past.
Kubo works his way to the byline and whips a dangerous ball in but Neto extends a leg and sends it back from whence it came.
A couple of changes for Barcelona with Pjanic and Trincão coming on for their debuts.
Real Madrid loanee Take Kubo will have a little over 15 minutes to show his old club Barcelona what he can do.
Messi! Alba and the Argentinean combine yet again and the captain has a pretty decent option to guide a header into the corner but glances it wide.
And there goes Ansu.... what a fine game from the youngster. Dembélé on. Coutinho also heads off for Pedri.
No... because they go short again and Barça simply steer them away from the goal.
Villarreal corner.... can the visitors make anything of it?
Coutinho nutmegs the referee... it's been that kind of game for Barcelona.
Asenjo again! Messi drives in from the right and unleashes a trademark effort towards the far corner but the Villarreal keeper makes another excellent save!
You could forgive Neto for switching off a bit this evening but he is very alert to the danger posed by the onrushing Moi, who was looking to get on the end of a saucy Moreno through ball.
Moreno obliges Neto to make a sprawling save but the flag was up anyway.
De Jong aims a ball into the area but seems unsure whether to aim for Sergi Roberto or Griezmann. In the end he finds neither.
Messi tries to wriggle through in the area but a trio of yellow shirts manage to do enough to deny the Argentinean a route to goal.
It's all Barcelona again despite Villarreals' efforts to try and make a dent.
Griezmann has had a decent game this evening. The Frenchman has used the space afforded by Villarreal well, opening up opportunities for his teammates and linking the attack together. He pops up in defence now to deny Moi an opportunity to turn a long ball into something promising.
Neto is finally called into action as he comes out to snuff out a spot of danger on the edge of the area. It's been a quiet evening for the Barça keeper.
Wonderful one-touch stuff from Barcelona who are thoroughly enjoying this now. Four quick passes and Ansu lifts the ball over the top for Messi, who hits his shot straight at Asenjo. Things could be considerably worse for the visitors were it not for their keeper's efforts so far.
Emery has switched to a 4-5-1 with only Moreno up top... damage limitation from the Villarreal boss.
We're back underway... two changes for Villarreal at half time, Coquelin and Alcácer off, Iborra and Trigueros on to try and shore up that midfield and avoid a proper drubbing.
Villarreal are emerging from the tunnel, rather despondently it has to be said.
Little wonder that Barça have tied down Ansu with a hefty buy-out clause... the teenager has been electric in the first half. Hopefully Koeman will afford him the opportunity to seek his hat-trick in the second 45.
Barcelona have managed five shots on target out of eight while Villarreal's sole warming of Neto's gloves was Estupiñán's tame effort, which was more of an old school back pass than a crack between the sticks.
There are so many stats from the first half that show Villarreal's inferiority in this game but one really stands out: one successful tackle in the entire 45.
And that's the half! What a start for Koeman, but in fairness Villarreal have been more than pliant opoosition so far.
Goooooooooooool! Pau Torres beats his own keeper from Messi's cross! That is a hammer blow for Villarreal on the stroke of half time! And in fairnes, it was the best effort the visitors have mustered at either end.
Moreno! Finally the visitors get froward and carve out a chance but Barça fell back in good order to thwart the danger. Koeman has clearly been working on the defence during his brief time at the helm.
Barcelona are utterly relentless... Villarreal have barely been out of their half for the last 10 minutes and the hosts are in complete control.
What a move from Barça! Griezmann is offside and so stays well out of it as Coutinho and Sergi Roberto ping it around the area. The latter ends up hitting a shot into the turf and Asenjo is forced into another acrobatic save!
You do wonder just how bad this could get for Villarreal... the visitors have been impotent in attack, sloppy in midfield and porous at the back. And Barcelona have an 8-2 drubbing in their last official game to exorcise.
Villarreal try to cook up a training ground corner but the attempt to head it back across goal ends up in Neto's gloves.
Goooooooooool! Messi! The Argentinean sends it low and hard and while Asenjo almost got a glove on it, it creeps under and into the net!
Penalty! Ansu goes down and the ref points to the spot! No VAR, no arguments, Messi over the ball....
Villarreal come forward with four on four but Moi's pass goes straight to the boot of Piqué, who says ta very much and hoofs it clear. The visitors are making it too easy here.
That Estupiñán effort has been Villarreal's only shot on goal so far this evening.
Ansu is almost through again but his first touch lets him down and pings up onto his arm.
Decent idea from Estupiñán, who meets a cross from Moi first time and tries to steer a shot into the net but he didn't really get hold of it and it's more of a pass into the paws of Neto.
Asenjo! What a stop from the Villarreal keeper as Alba has a crack from point blank range.
Messi! The Argentinean drives into the area and hammers a shot at Asenjo but Pau Torres gets a boot on it and clears.
Chukwueze finds Moreno with a decent ball but the Spain forward can't control it and Barça recover possession.
Some tweaking for Emery to consider here surely. His high defensive line has been exposed brutally by Barça's quick transitions and his forwards have barely had a sniff of the ball yet.
Goooooooooooooool! And they'll need two at least now as Fati bangs in another! Barça break from the back, Coutinho feeds the teenager and he hits a low shot through the legs of Asenjo.
So far this season Emery's side have come from behind to claim one point and three. But they have failed to threaten Neto so far here.
Ansu again causing trouble in the Villarreal back four but Griezmann can't guide an effort on target. A lively start from the young Spain international.
Gooooooooooooooool! Forget that! Alba streaks clear on the left as Villarreal's high line is sprung. He gets to the byline and pulls it back for Ansu, who blasts it into the net from inside the area with a composed finish!
The Argentinean, who has slipped out to the left, manages to get a cross into the Villarreal area but there is nobody there to meet it. Barça struggling to find any rhythm in attack so far and Villarreal are happy enough to soak up the pressure for now.
Messi, who hasn't seen much of the ball yet, tries to jink bewteen a couple of defenders but has the pig skin nicked off his boot. No clear chances at either end as the Submarine attempt to put their foot on the ball and take a bit of pace out of the game.
Alba appears to be Barça's main attacking outlet now with Sergi Roberto sitting back on the right side. Barça have made plenty of forays forward but, as you would expect from an Emery side, Villarreal close ranks very efficiently and there is no way through at the moment.
Estupiñan goes on a canter down the left and sends a low ball in but Piqué is there to thump it clear.
Corner for Barça as Jordi Alba bursts into the box and Moi turns it behind. Villarreal manage to clear though and the danger is averted for now. The visitors are keeping it very narrow when not in possession.
Chance for Villarreal! The away side work a decent ball into the area but Chukwueze can't quite bring it under control and it's knocked back to Neto.
The Villarreal boss appears to have gone for a 4-4-2 with Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcácer up top with Chukwueze and Moi Gómez providing some width.
The teams are in the tunnels and we're not far away from seeing what Koeman has cooked up tactically for his first official game as Barcelona manager. Unai Emery's line-up is fairly attacking so it could well be end-to-end stuff!
Luis Suárez's number nine shirt remains vacant after the Uruguayan's departure... still some time in the transfer window left if Koeman decides he needs an out-and-out striker with similar characteristics.
Coutinho back in the fold
The Brazilian was widely expected to be sold or farmed out on loan again but appears to have gained the trust of Koeman and starts tonight for his first official Barcelona appearance since 2019.
Another stat not favouring the visitors is that Barcelona have not lost a league game against Villarreal since 2008... a 2-1 win in Camp Nou for the Yellow Submarine. They came very close a couple of seasons ago though in a crazy 4-4 draw at La Cerámica.
Emery has played a total of 25 matches in all competitions against Barcelona during his managerial career and has only won two of those to date. It would be quite the start to his own return to Spain if he was to add a third this evening.
Here's Barça's bench for this evening, which is fairly strong but also rather youthful. It will be interesting to see how Pjanic slots into midfield if he is handed a debut and Ousmane Dembélé is available again after injury to potentially add some late pace to bother the Villarreal back four.
Villarreal XI confirmed
And here's Emery's line-up. Parejo and Coquelin retain their places and the exciting Samuel Chukwueze should give Barça's back line some headaches. Former Camp Nou striker Paco Alcácer returns and he'd doubtless like to get on the score sheet this evening.
Barcelona XI confirmed
And here is Koeman's first Barcelona starting XI. Neto starts in place of the injured Ter Stegen but largely it's what you would expect. If Ansu Fati is to form the tip of the attack Messi, Coutinho and Griezmann will provide the ammo.
Suárez sets the bar high for Koeman's judgment
Whether it was the club's decision to send the Uruguayan packing or not is a moot point - Suárez reminded his former employers that he still knows where the onion bag is earlier on Sunday. Koeman needs a convincing win, and Emery is just the sort of coach who can prevent that.
Barcelona are in rather unfamiliar territory at the moment but of course they haven't played yet. If they are still there in the morning though back-page alarm bells will greet Koeman as he awakes for his cornflakes.
Villarreal are seventh at the moment and would go joint top with Celta if Emery can get the better of Koeman.
Koeman for his part has promised a shift from Barcelona's traditonal 4-3-3 to a more possession-based 4-2-3-1 so it remains to be seen how his new side will adapt to that formation, or who the 1 at the top will be. Antoine Griezmann is the obvious candidate but Messi could also move into the middle with the Frenchman no stranger to the wing.
So Koeman has quite a lot of convincing to do in the early stages of his reign and tonight's opponent's Villarreal should provide an interesting test. The Yellow Submarine decided to go all Valencia in the summer, hiring former Mestalla boss Unai Emery - the mastermind of a string of third-placed victories during his tenure, and bringing in Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin from their neighbours and rivals. So far Emery has overseen a win and a draw as he looks to impose his famously detail-heavy style but the former Arsenal boss is a wily manager who has not traditionally had much luck against Barça or Real Madrid but will put Koeman's tactical chops under the grill this evening.
Messi hits out at Barcelona - and not for the first time
Messi, who was only really prevented from leaving by a bit of legal chicanery over the exact details of his get-out clause, subsequently accused the club of showing scant respect for a player who by any measure has been a huge success at Barcelona.
Barcelona reacted by firing Quique Setién, who has himself only replaced Ernesto Valverde halfway through season, and hiring Ronald Koeman. The former Barça defender carries plenty of weight at the club but perhaps threw it in the wrong direction when he informed Leo Messi's best friend, Luis Suárez, that he could sling his hook just a few days after Messi had, perhaps reluctantly, agreed to remain at Camp Nou for another season.
This will be Barcelona's first competitive game of the new campaign after a 2019-20 season unravelled in spectacular style as Real Madrid overhauled the reigning champions to win the league title and Bayern Munich administared an historic drubbing in the Champions League to bring a miserable season to a close.
Barcelona vs Villarreal live online: welcome
Hello and welcome to AS English's live online coverage of the LaLiga match between Barcelona and Villarreal from Camp Nou on 27 September. Kick-off is at 21:00.