Barcelona managed a dramatic comeback against Cadiz to secure their first win of the season last weekend, but their upcoming clash against Villarreal promises an even tougher challenge.
Villarreal, led by the prominent Spanish international Gerard Moreno, is poised to test the defending champions more severely, especially considering Barcelona’s sluggish start to the season.
In the opening week, Barcelona struggled to break through Getafe’s defense, resulting in a frustrating goalless draw. It was only in the dying moments of the match against Cadiz that Pedri Gonzalez managed to break the deadlock.
Unfortunately, Pedri is set to be sidelined for the next month due to a thigh injury, leaving a void in Xavi Hernandez’s squad and depriving them of a crucial creative force.
Recent addition Ilkay Gundogan played a pivotal role in creating Pedri’s goal and has integrated well into Barcelona’s gameplay. Additionally, the emergence of 16-year-old talent Lamine Yamal has been a positive highlight. However, seasoned striker Robert Lewandowski has encountered difficulties at the beginning of this season.
The experienced 35-year-old Polish forward has yet to find the back of the net and has appeared somewhat disconnected from the team’s dynamics. This disconnect has led him to drop back in search of the ball.
Xavi commented, “He will score. He needs more patience. The goals will come once he finds his rhythm. While it’s understandable that players want to come deep to receive the ball, maintaining positional discipline is crucial.”
Should Lewandowski’s struggles persist, there could be substantial pressure on the young shoulders of Yamal. The 16-year-old stepped in for the suspended Raphinha in the previous match and delivered an impressive performance. Ferran Torres, who secured the second goal against Cadiz, is also vying for a starting position.
Xavi praised Yamal, stating, “Yamal is remarkably prepared and displays an impressive maturity despite his age. He possesses the ability to make a game-changing impact—a feat not easily achieved at Barcelona, especially for a 16-year-old. I believe he’s fully equipped to contribute to the team.”
Villarreal will be without explosive winger Yeremy Pino due to an ongoing injury, but the combined talents of Moreno and new signings Alexander Sorloth and Ben Brereton Diaz offer a formidable threat capable of testing Barcelona’s defensive line.
Barcelona is actively pursuing a right-back addition, and due to Ronald Araujo’s injury, they utilized Frenkie de Jong as a makeshift center-back against Cadiz.