Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has played down Villarreal midfielder Dani Raba's controversial red card during Sunday's La Liga win at Estadio de la Ceramica, claiming the player himself knew it was a red card.

The game was deadlocked at 0-0 until the straight red card for Raba following a late challenge on Sergio Busquets, and shortly after goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi sealed a first league win in three games which took them five points clear at the top.

Speaking to Marca about the game changing red card, he said: "The red card happens within the context of the match," stated Valverde post-match. "I think the player himself has realised that it was disproportionate to tackle like that. I have not seen the replay, but I thought it was a strong challenge. The player himself was worried and didn't protest."

He also praised his solid makeshift defensive partnership of Thomas Vermaelen and Jordi Alba, both of whom were superb against a Villarreal side who showed signs of threatening prior to the sending off. 

Valverde said: "Jordi's attacks, as they are so unpredictable, are dangerous for any opponent," said the coach. "They've been one of our biggest assets in scoring and to winning. We have no doubts with [Vermaelen]. He has come in at a decisive moment for us and has responded very well."

Barcelona remain unbeaten in all competitions, and the night was even sweeter for an excellent Lionel Messi, whose goal saw him equal Gerd Muller's record of 525 goals for a single European club.