Pedro and David Fuster were on the score sheet at the Camp Nou, as the league leaders were held to a draw.
Pep Guardiola chose to rest Lionel Messi by not including him in the squad at all, while Jonathan Dos Santos earned a start, and Gabriel Milito made the bench. Nilmar led the line for Villarreal, with Joseba Llorente, Giuseppe Rossi and Robert Pires all substitutes.
Barcelona dominated the early stages, and it came as little surprise when they opened the scoring after just seven minutes. Some neat build-up play saw the ball find its way to Daniel Alves on the right, and the Brazilian's cross was smashed onto the bar by Thierry Henry. Pedro, however, was alert to the rebound, and he fired home to give the Blaugrana the lead.
Barca continued to monopolise possession after taking the lead, and although they were not creating too many chances, they still looked by far the more likely team to score. On 25 minutes, Henry came close again, but his header was saved by Diego Lopez just before it crossed the line. Minutes later, the visitors had their first chance of the match, when David Fuster inexplicably headed Cani's cross over from inches out.
On the stroke of half-time, Alves caused more havoc down the right, but Henry could not direct his header goalwards, under pressure from Lopez. Ultimately, despite the best intentions of both sides, it was a half of few chances, as Barca went into the break ahead by one goal.
Villarreal had the first chance of the second half, but Fuster once again blazed over, this time having been played through by Nilmar. However, he did not have to wait long to get another opportunity, and this time he made no mistake. Cani swung a ball in from the right, and Fuster was on hand at the far post to tuck it past a helpless Valdes.
Just before the hour mark, Guardiola brought Andres Iniesta on, taking Dos Santos off. The midfielder was immediately in the thick of the action, as his first shot of the night was well saved by Lopez. Minutes later, he tested the visiting keeper again, this time with a fierce drive from outside the box that was tipped away from the corner of the net.
Chances continued to come at a premium, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have done better with a shot from inside the area that was dragged wide. However, it was Rossi, the substitute for the visitors, who had the best chance just three minutes from time, but his effort was cleared off the line by Carles Puyol, after the Italian had got past Valdes.
The winning goal never came for either side, and in truth, it seldom looked likely to do so. Ultimately, it was a lacklustre performance from the Blaugrana, who will need to improve if they are to repeat last year's successes.
Arjun Miglani, Goal.com