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02 March 2024

Sub-par Barca won't worry boss

Ibrahimovic misses Barca's next league game through suspension. (REUTERS)

By Ben Hayward

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was unconcerned by his side's failure to beat Villarreal at the Nou Camp on Saturday night and claimed the draw will only make his team stronger in the long run.

There was a party atmosphere at the packed stadium before the game as Barca showed off the six trophies won in 2009 to their fans – including the Fifa Club World Cup trinket they won in Abu Dhabi last month.

But, just as last year when Villarreal came and drew 3-3 when Barca needed a win to clinch the La Liga title, the 'Yellow Submarine' proved to be the party poopers once more as they held the Catalans to a 1-1 tie.

Guardiola, however, remained unmoved and declared the disappointment could ast as a catalyst for better displays later in the year.

"It is a lesson for the future – it will make us stronger and make us realise that everything is difficult," said Guardiola, who felt his side were unlucky to face such a strong team straight after the league's winter break. "It was a very hard game and to come back from holiday and have to face one of the big clubs, Villarreal, makes it even more complicated.

"We knew the difficulty of it, but now we have to recover in exactly the same way as if we had won or lost," added the celebrated coach.

Up until this point, Barca had a perfect record at home in the league, but struggled to impose themselves on the game without World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita were also missing, while Andres Iniesta was not deemed fit enough to start.

In the absence of all of those players in midfield, Jonathan Dos Santos – brother of Tottenham's Giovani – made his first league start. Guardiola was happy with the Mexican's performance.

"He did well, moved around well and played the ball with class in what was a very difficult game," he said, before insisting he was satisfied with all of his players. "I have nothing to reproach."

Guardiola, though, did have some words of warning for striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was booked for a nasty lunge on Javi Venta with two minutes left and is now suspended for next week's visit to Tenerife.

"He is temperamental, but he has to be careful because some day he could leave us with 10 men on the pitch," said Guardiola.

Meanwhile, Villarreal coach Ernesto Valverde was delighted with his side's performance, saying: "I'm satisfied – we played against the best team in the world and we could even have won in the end".


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