Barcelona lumbered through another lethargic display in front of their home fans.
The Catalans lost their home opener 2-0 to newly-promoted Hercules last time out at the Nou Camp and failed to inspire again against a second-string Sporting side.
Sporting's fringe players proved, however, a resilient match for Barcelona who dominated possession but had to rely on Villa's 49th-minute strike after Dani Alves' through-ball gave him a rare sight of goal.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola said: "It has not been a brilliant game but it was a good match.
"The attitude has been perfect and I'm sure the next day we'll do better. This time we didn't get after the opposition which is what you need to do against opponents that sit back and don't come at you. We lacked a second goal which would have given us peace."