Barcelona bounced back from their Clasico loss in style as they cruised to a 3-0 home LaLiga win over Villarreal with a brace from Robert Lewandowski on Thursday.
The Camp Nou club remained second in the standings on 25 points, three behind Real Madrid and three clear of third-placed Real Sociedad, who have won their last five league games and eight consecutive wins in all competitions.
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Manager Xavi Hernandez said he was going to shake things up and he kept his word, making five changes to the team completely outclassed in their 3-1 loss at Real Madrid on Sunday.
That was another major blow to Xavi and his team who are on the verge of Champions League elimination after a 3-3 home draw with Internazionale last week.
"I think we played really well," Xavi said following the win. "We needed to react and were due a performance in a big game. It was not an easy day after losing at the Bernabeu and drawing with Inter. There are high hopes for this team, a lot is expected. We stepped up and showed character, good intensity, good in defence and, above all, in attack."
Teenager Ansu Fati shone for Barca on Thursday as he created three great early chances before Lewandowski opened the scoring in the 31st minute.
The Poland striker controlled the ball brilliantly inside from a low cross by Jordi Alba and shook off two defenders with a subtle touch before turning to finish with a powerful shot.
Barcelona scored three times in seven minutes as the Lewandowski increased the lead with a precise curling shot from the edge of the box to finish off a counter-attack after Pedri stole the ball close to the centre circle.
Fati, 19, scored Barca's third three minutes later, placing a close-range shot into the empty net from a low cross by Ferran Torres.
With the points secured, Barca took their foot off the gas after the break but comfortably held on to their lead.
"The most important thing is the win. The team always come first," Fati said after the match. "Off course I want to win. I'm ready, I feel good and I'm available to help the team if the coach needs me."
There was a moment of silence before the match because of the death of Villarreal vice president Jose Manuel Llaneza, considered the architect of Villarreal's project that led the club recent success such as beating Manchester United on penalties in the Europa League final in 2021.
"Jose Manuel started this project, before the Roig family took over," Villarreal coach Unai Emery said. "I wanted to dedicate a win to his family, but it was not to be. It has been two really intense years for me with him and news like this always affects you. Now we need to think about Sunday."