It’s been quite a while since Lionel Messi last played for Barcelona, two months to be exact. All that time out, and it took him less than half an hour to bag himself a brace on his return, showing he’s quite ready for his team’s biggest match of the season this weekend.
With all due respect to Getafe, who Barcelona crushed 4-0 with two goals from Cesc Fabregas and the finishing two from Lionel Messi, now they have the time to focus on the match that really matters: Atletico Madrid, at the Vicente Calderon. The same Atletico that made life very difficult for Barcelona in the Supercoppa (two draws), and a team that has a perfect nine-for-nine record in home matches this season.
Messi struggled in those matches, not being completely healthy. It was a Neymar away goal that brought Barcelona closer to the title. It was also Neymar’s first goal for the club, but he was in a very different standing at the time. A few more goals in big matches later, and there’s no doubt that Barcelona made the right choice by signing him.
But the question will be Messi. He came on in the 64th minute against Getafe, and almost set up Pedro for an easy goal before doing what he does best – score. The first goal came in the 89th minute, pouncing quicker than everyone on a ball no one was able to control. The second came in injury time, with Messi dragging along with him half of Getafe’s defense, running more than 50 meters before a wonderful finish that pretty much showed he couldn’t be any healthier.
Atletico Madrid is a different story – super aggressive, very tight and narrow, not to mention with a higher quality of players that will make it difficult for Barcelona to play. However, last season Atletico Madrid were pretty much in the same situation heading into their match with Barcelona (December 16, 2012) and lost 4-1 at the Camp Nou. In more of a garbage time match, they also lost at home 2-1.
This season feels different. Atletico have had the fortune to avoid serious injuries, which has helped them keep the pace with the big two, and even leave Real Madrid behind. However, with Lionel Messi back in the picture, Barcelona have every reason in the world to head into a super-difficult match and stadium with plenty of confidence.