Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho were on target as Barcelona defeated Villarreal 3-1 at El Madrigal in La Liga on Saturday night.

The game was off to a frantic start as both teams had chances to score early on, with Barcelona starlet Abde Ezzalzouli seeing a header saved while Villarreal’s top scorer, Arnaut Danjuma, had a shot blocked at the other end by Gerard Pique. The Catalans had two more chances to get in front, but Memphis Depay and Gavi failed to make them count.

Depay was guilty of spurning another great chance around the midpoint in the first half when he was in a 1v1 situation against the Villarreal goalkeeper. The hosts also came close through Pau Torres, whose header missed the target narrowly as the first half ended at 0-0. Three minutes after the break, though, Barcelona were in front as Frenkie de Jong tapped home a rebound after Depay’s initial effort was saved.

Villarreal pushed for an equaliser which came in the 76th minute via substitute Samuel Chukwueze’s fierce strike from inside the box. It looked like the game was headed for a draw when a piece of slack defending from the home team allowed Depay to pounce and make it 2-1 for Barcelona in the 88th minute, to effectively win it for his side.

Deep into stoppage time, substitute Philippe Coutinho dispatched a penalty that he had won to add more sheen to the scoreline and bag three points for the Blaugrana. Manager Xavi Hernandez will be pleased with the outcome of the game, although the performance and some of his tactics were unconvincing. Here is how we rated the displays of the Barcelona stars at Estadio de la Ceramica.

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Barcelona Player Ratings

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10

The German international was not tested a great deal by Villarreal on the night, even though they did look dangerous when they went forward. Ter Stegen had to make just one save all game and had no chance of stopping Chukwueze’s strike. His long kick played a vital role in Depay’s goal late in the game.

Eric Garcia: 4/10

Shunted out in an unfamiliar right-back role, the Spaniard struggled to get to grips with the demands of the position. Xavi’s insistence on having the ex-Manchester City ace man-mark and follow Moi Gomez wherever he went was a questionable move as well, as it left spaces on the flank. Garcia also had a penalty claim against him turned down after he appeared to have fouled Raul Albiol.

Gerard Pique: 5.5/10

The veteran defender made a crucial block to deny Pino a goal early in the contest. However, he was very poor in the lead-up to Villarreal’s equaliser as he stepped out but failed to get tight enough to his man, leaving space open for Chukwueze to run into.

Ronald Araujo: 8/10

The Uruguayan international put in a rock-solid display at the heart of the Barcelona defence. Araujo read the game well and was more often than not in the right position to cut out threats. He was also strong and aggressive in his challenges, completing four tackles and two interceptions on the night. Did his growing reputation no harm.

Jordi Alba: 6/10

The veteran left-back had it tough at El Madrigal as he found himself playing catch up with the lively Yeremi Pino regularly. It affected his usual attacking gameplay, although Alba did manage to deliver the dangerous cross leading to the opening goal. He was taken off in the second period with a muscle issue.

Frenkie de Jong: 8/10

Amidst all the rumours of Barcelona considering selling him, the Dutchman showed what he could add to the team if he gets going. Frenkie de Jong was easily the Catalans’ best player on the pitch as he constantly carved out openings for his teammates with some beautiful passes, one of which Depay should have converted from in the first half.

Crisp with his passing, sharp in his movement, the 24-year-old was also at hand to open the scoring for Barcelona, tapping home from point-blank range. De Jong ended the game with a team-high three key passes played.

Sergio Busquets: 7/10

The Barcelona skipper was on the receiving end of a reckless challenge by Dani Parejo very early in the game, which surprisingly went unpunished. Busquets, though, shrugged it off and put in an assured display in the middle of the park. As usual, the veteran kept things ticking along nicely with neat and precise passes.

Nico Gonzalez: 6.5/10

The teenage prospect showed good energy and intensity throughout as he put in the hard yards off the ball and provided a handy outlet with the ball at his feet, completing 29/32 passes. However, Nico was unable to engineer any major openings on the night.

Abde Ezzalzouli: 6.5/10

The 19-year-old winger started brightly and looked dangerous each time he ran at the opposition defence and also had a headed effort saved early on. However, his threat was somewhat neutralised by Xavi’s strange tactics of having him pull back and play almost as an auxiliary right-back. Nevertheless, he managed to play a key role in the buildup to the opening goal in the first half.

Memphis Depay: 6/10

Sloppy from the Dutchman yet again as he missed two great opportunities two put Barcelona in front in the first period. He did make amends by playing an inadvertent role in de Jong’s goal before scoring one himself late on with a delicate finish, which proved to be the eventual winner. But, in an overall sense, it was yet another so-so display from Depay with his finishing raising concerns yet again.

Gavi: 6/10

Shunted out to the left flank yet again, Gavi started brightly and came close to scoring, with his effort hitting the woodwork early on. The teenager showed glimpses of quality from then on in his movement but could not have a meaningful impact. He needs to polish his end product, but a decent job considering he was being played out of position.


Ousmane Dembele: 5/10

The Frenchman replaced Abde in the 66th minute. He spent most of his time on the pitch defending and could not do anything of note going forward.

Oscar Mingueza: 3/10

He came on for the injured Alba for the final twenty minutes or so and was all over the place. Struggled to cope with the threat of Chukwueze and allowed him a free run for the goal.

Philippe Coutinho: 7/10

The Brazilian came on for Nico in the final ten minutes and looked sharper than some of his recent displays. He almost created a chance before winning a penalty late on, which he converted to put the game to bed. The goal will have done his confidence some good.

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