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Mar 10, 2008

Barcelona vs VillarealThis match was billed as a dedication to Lionel Messi; don't be surprised if Messi hesitates to accept this dedication. With yesterday’s performance Barcelona find themselves a huge eight points adrift of the leaders. Two weeks before we were just two points away and now its again we have to wait for Madrid to slip, really badly. Will Madrid do the favour a second time, is doubtful. Two weeks before we were celebrating the fact that Madrid were unable to win their away games in the league, now we suddenly have a problem of our own. In recent weeks our defense has conceded more goals than any of the top flight clubs in Europe. Unless Rijkaard address the entire problem as early as possible, we might be out of Copa Del Rey pretty soon.

Barcelona started the match with Ronaldinho on the right and Henry on the left. Iniesta, who was Barcelona's best player, joined Xavi in the middle. With Puyol suspended and Marquez injured, Barcelona had the combination of Milito and Thuram who both had a forgettable night. In the third minute Abidal created an early chance for Eto, but his attempt on goal was a very weak one. In the 26th minute Abidal found Henry in the box, who did well to lose his marker but to shoot high. Then in the 30th minute Franco's individual play won Villarreal a penalty when Valdes brought him down in the box. Marcos Senna converted to take Villarreal one up in the match. The lead should have doubled in the 38th minute after another excellent Franco run into the box, but the defense somehow cleared the ball.
Just after the break, Barcelona should have equalised when a wonderful ball from Ronaldinho found Eto but Eto was very indecisive and gave time for defense to close him down. Then in 65th minute Bojan came in for Henry, Barcelona looked like settling into a decent formation for the first time in the game. In the 67th minute after a beautiful one two with Ronaldinho, Iniesta rushed past defenders into the box from the left and place the ball into Xavi's path, who converted it with ease. For sometime Barcelona gave signs that they might convert one more, but then in 80th minute Tomasson scored after a neat exchange of passes by Villarreal players. That goal was a defensive disaster with nobody feeling the need to close down players. In the 89th minute Ronaldinho free kick hit the cross bar, that should have summed up Barcelona's night.

Its time Rijkaard looked into the problem of our defense. It would be better going back to the tactics that saw us past Villarreal and Sevilla in Copa Del Rey. It is also necessary that Rijkaard understands that he can only have either one of Henry or Ronaldinho in his side. They both prefer to play in a wide left position; Iniesta could play in front right, with Gudjonsen getting his dues in the centre. He is a very decent player. Have we lost the championship? I don't know.

Xavi Goal

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