Watch out Man Utd, Pedri is on fire! Winners, losers & ratings as Barcelona's starboy inspires narrow win at Villarreal that cuts Real Madrid loose in La Liga
It wasn't pretty, but who cares? Pedri grabbed the only goal and starred throughout. While Barcelona missed a few chances, their defensive efforts were enough to secure an ugly 1-0 victory over Villarreal that extends their lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga to 11 points.
Barcelona avoided any early jitters, with Pedri breaking the deadlock in the 18th minute. The 20-year-old latched onto Robert Lewandowski's flick, before wrong-footing Pepe Reina from close range to finish off a beautiful flowing move from the visitors. Villarreal had a chance to equalise on the brink of half-time, but Jose Luis Morales fired into the side-netting after running through on goal.
The Blaugrana pushed for a second after half-time, with Pedri and Raphinha exchanging good chances. But they failed to double their lead, instead relying on a string of Ronald Araujo clearances to hang on to a precarious 1-0 advantage.
At full-time, Xavi's side celebrated with the passion of a team that knows it could be on the brink of something special. And with Madrid now so far behind, albeit with a game in hand, those joyous scenes seem well-founded.
A new challenge awaits, though. Manchester United are looming in the Europa League knockout play-offs, and for all of Barca's success, they might need a better performance to establish a first-leg lead over a fit and firing side, especially with defensive midfield stalwart Casemiro back in the fold...