Barcelona vs. Villarreal: 5 Things We Learned About the La Liga Race – Bleacher Report

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The beginning of the European football season is quickly turning into a continental poker game.
In England, Manchester United saw Manchester City‘s 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, and raised ’em an 8-2 embarrassment of Arsenal.
And in Spain, Barcelona saw Real Madrid‘s weekend walloping of Real Zaragoza, and anted up with a 5-0 win over Villarreal.
Real Madrid still leads the table on goal difference after their 6-0 victory, but the implications of Barcelona’s accomplishment are clear. Barca whipped a team that finished fourth in La Liga last year. Real did the same, but to a mid-table scrapper.
Only one game into the La Liga season, the stakes are already high. Win, and win impressively, or risk falling behind.
With that said, here are five things we learned from Barcelona’s destruction of Villarreal on Monday.
Last year Barcelona earned the title of “best team in the world” after winning La Liga and the Champions League. But it wasn’t just the fact that Barca won it all—they did it with style and flair and they embarrassed their hapless opponents in the process.
But that title might have been premature, because this year’s team might be even better.
It’s early, but it looks like Barcelona has only gotten stronger since the 2010-11 season ended. The roster didn’t lose anyone too important, at least nothing that can’t be set off by the arrival of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.
Speaking of Cesc…
Cesc took a lot of heat for the extended nature of his transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona. But it’s hard to blame him for that decision.
Barcelona plays the best football of any club in the world, and Cesc fits in perfectly. He was a captain at Arsenal, a team that played its own attractive brand of soccer. But somehow it doesn’t seem likely that Cesc cares about that right now.
Arsenal sits in 17th place in the Premiership table after gaining one point through three matches. Barcelona is the best team in the world.
Which would you choose?
And after watching Arsenal’s ugly 8-2 loss to Manchester United on Sunday, it’s clear the Gunners have more problems than just a lack of Cesc.
Speaking of Cesc again, now that he’s with Barcelona, it appears he can score.
Arsene Wenger, by the way, probably just had a coronary.
During his Arsenal career, Cesc scored 35 goals in 212 appearances. His record with Barcelona is only one goal in one league match, but he also scored last week against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup.
Maybe it’s just an aberration, and it’s definitely a small sample size. But it seems like Barcelona’s formation suits Cesc better.
And that’s a stinging appraisal of Wenger’s tactical know-how.
Barcelona is a world-class team. Real Madrid is right there with its rival.
The rest of La Liga, however, is less impressive.
Barcelona’s 5-0 win Monday came against Villarreal, which finished fourth last year and qualified for the Champions League. That tells us one of two things, or maybe both.
One: Barcelona and Real Madrid are light years ahead of the rest of La Liga.
Two: La Liga has no depth.
It comes down to semantics, really. Barcelona is pretty much universally recognized as the best team in the world, so most of its opponents are going to look bad. And a great team can make its opponents look very, very bad, as Manchester United showed this past weekend.
The real test of La Liga’s depth will come in this year’s Champions League. Not with the results and expected progress of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but with the struggles or triumphs of Valencia and Villarreal.
Giuseppe Rossi (barely) didn’t score, and Villarreal looked pretty average overall. But Rossi had a pretty good game regardless.
He threatened the Barcelona defense early and often, and nearly scored in the 38th minute—even if he was offside. His shot was saved by Victor Valdes, but it bounced near the line and almost went in.
More importantly, Rossi was one of the only bright spots for Villarreal in a match to forget. If he keeps playing the way he did Monday, Villarreal should have another good season.
Too bad for American fans, too. Now we’ll all be even more depressed that he chose to represent Italy in international competition, rather than the United States. Since he was born in New Jersey he had his choice, and after American fans held out some hope for him, he chose Italy.
But then again, wouldn’t you?
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