Lionel Messi

After leading the league for most of the season, Real Madrid slipped for the second time in a week by losing to Athletic Bilbao, allowing Barcelona to regain the top spot in the La Liga following a 6-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano which included a Lionel Messi hat trick, making things level in the Pichichi race between him and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real Madrid played bad football in the 1-1 draw against Villarreal, and the same form followed at the San Mames, conceding an early goal from Aduriz (a beautiful header) and never looking remotely close to equalizing. The stubbornness of Carlo Ancelotti to have his three front men – Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema remain isolated from a midfield unit that played as if they’re defending heavily against a difficult opponent didn’t make sense. Toni Kroos and Asier Illarramendi stuck as defensive midfielders while Isco looks lost ahead of them lost Real Madrid the match.

But that’s been Real Madrid in recent matches without Luka Modric and James Rodriguez. A team that relies on the talent of Ronaldo and Bale to make something out of nothing. As good as they are and as expensive as they might be, every striker in the world needs a midfield behind him to create chances and generate some sort of build up. Bale has looked awful in recent matches regardless, so putting him in such a position made little sense.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Things were very different a day later the Nou Camp. Barcelona came into the match against the tiny Madrid side knowing a win puts them on top of the La Liga table, and got a very early goal from Luis Suarez. While their defense looked exposed on a number of occasions due to very little numbers staying behind, Rayo got their goal when the match was already signed, sealed and delivered. Suarez scored another goal to complete the victory, seemingly on the opposite track Bale has been on lately.

Messi, obviously, was the star of the show. His first goal came from the penalty spot. He actually missed his first try, but the referee ordered the kick to be taken again. Messi didn’t miss a second time. When the match was over, he had himself his 32nd La Liga hat trick, more than anyone else in history. He also reached 30 league goals (in only 26 league matches), which means he is tied with Ronaldo for the Pichichi, which Messi has won three times already.

Another interesting number about Messi is the number of goals he has scored for the club compared to the rest of his teammates. This graph was made before the match, but doesn’t really change after the win over Vallecano. Messi now has 395 goals in his Barcelona career. The rest of his teammates combined? They have 394. Messi also needed just 11 minutes for this hat trick, the quickest of his career. In 2015, he has 18 goals and 9 assists in 16 matches.

La Liga Table

Images: Source