Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has revealed his delight at both Ousmane Dembele and Carlos Alena after the 2-0 win over Villarreal.
So what happened against Villarreal? (Ben Crump)
Valverde is having to rely heavily on his squad of late after multiple injury problems and Alena’s appearance from the bench delighted the home crowd.
Replacing Arturo Vidal on the hour mark, the young midfielder finished off a superb move late on thanks to a sublime Lionel Messi pass.
Barca had started the game well but chances for Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele failed to break the deadlock.
The latter was in superb form and he became provider from the left hand side, crossing in for Gerard Pique, whose header was too strong for Sergio Asenjo.
Gerard Moreno enjoyed a good battle with Pique and the former Espanyol looked like the away side’s best chance of scoring a goal, but he could not get the better of the Barca defender, who had arguably his best game of the season.
Delighted with Dembele
The Frenchman was superb against Villarreal and was a constant threat going forward, giving Villarreal’s Alfonso Pedreza a nightmare during the first half, especially.
Valverde, who has remained patient with the World Cup winner, has now revealed his delight at the performance.
“Dembele was sensational for us,” Valverde told reporters after the game.
“He was one of our standout performers and added a lot to our performances – he beat players, showed his pace, his dribbling abilities, his self-belief – he took risks and they paid off.
“We believe he can continue to show this in forthcoming games because we are not surprised by this and we believe it has been on its way.
“We are obviously really happy with the performance but this is Dembele’s level and we believe we should be expecting even more now.”
Alena aims to become even better
The young midfielder was hauled on with Barcelona leading 1-0 and he netted an impressive second to score his first ever first team goal.
Valverde revealed his happiness, before the former Barca B man also spoke.
“Carles Alena? His goal was his reward because he is a player who has constantly trained with the first-team and his promotion from the B team has been well earned, ” Valverde said.
“Now I must look to make the most of the opportunities I receive,” Alena told reporters after the match.
“I have been playing in the Copa and now I have had the chance in La Liga, but I know I must keep playing well to be considered.
“My aim is to give the Coach a selection problem when he considers picking the team, for my name to be in his head.”
What next for Barca?
The La Liga champions face Cultural Leonesa in mid-week Copa del Rey action, before facing Espanyol on Saturday evening.