Raphinha found Barca’s position ahead of Villarreal’s trip

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Raphinha found Barca’s position ahead of Villarreal’s trip


Winged salmon Raphinha has finally hit his best and helped the Catalans cope without the injured Ousmane Dembele, ahead of the La Liga leaders’ trip to face Villarreal on Sunday.

The French forward was injured against Girona at the end of January but Raphinha has stepped up to fill the void despite an uncertain start to his career at the club.

Signed from Leeds United for around 55 million euros ($59 million) last summer, the Brazilian was often rejected for the improvement of Dembele.

However, with the former Borussia Dortmund sidelined for five weeks, Raphinha is confident the club will not stumble in his absence.

The 26-year-old scored against Real Betis in a 2-1 win on February 1 and then assisted in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Sevilla. Barcelona opening a gap of eight above second place Real Madrid.

AnsuFati and Ferran Torres are reduced to smaller roles as Raphinha mentions the place of Dembele and the midfielder Gavi is placed on the left side of the attack.

“Although there are criticisms out there, we value his work,” said Xavi after the win over Sevilla.

In addition to the goal, Raphinha created a goal for Gavi with a sharp pass and played an important role in the start of Jordi Alba.

“He is strong, he attacks opportunities, he gives us a lot of attacks and is aggressive,” said Xavi.

“Now it looks like he’s more unique, but he’s a unique player.”

Raphinha had only made eight starts in the league before Barcelona faced Girona and the inconsistency led to mixed performances.

Xavi must decide whether or not to start Raphinha on the right side against Villarreal, with the first leg of the Europa League play-off round against Manchester United coming up on Thursday.

Giving the team more space up top could stop the Brazilian and give Torres the chance to play on his right.

With the victory Barcelona can move 11 points from the championship, not playing this weekend due to their participation in the World Cup.

Quique Setien’s Villarreal have improved under the former Barcelona coach but fell to a shock 3-1 defeat at bottom of the table Elche at the weekend.

It was Elche’s first win of the season and a blow to the Yellow Submarine’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Villarreal currently has six, four points behind fourth place Atletico Madrid.

“We have to criticize ourselves because this is a painful loss,” said goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

“A loss is very heavy (for us), but we will continue.

“We must evaluate in a week what needs to be improved, because without a doubt, there are many things.”

The 20-year-old Celta Vigo midfielder scored a brace in his club’s impressive 4-3 win over Real Betis at the weekend and is helping to push the Galician side out of danger.


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