Lionel Messi

As important as it might for Lionel Messi to notch up another goalscoring achievement for Barcelona, his hat trick won’t be very memorable if we’ll see nothing from this performance a few days from now, as the team play their second Clasico of the season, this time without a shadow of the doubt putting the title on the line.

Barcelona didn’t play with the exact lineup that’ll start at the Santiago Bernabeu, and still got away with a 7-0 win over Osasuna. They just need to hope they didn’t waste all their ammunition at once. Pedro and Alexis Sanchez played on the wings while Neymar sat on the bench for the whole 90 minutes. A healthy Brazilian will start against Real Madrid, but we might also see a Barcelona team using four central midfielders, with Cesc Fabregas starting off the bench this time.

What we surely won’t see is Martino making his rotations, which always happen to include either Xavi or Andres Iniesta. Until Barcelona change completely, having these two on the pitch is integral to their success, and most of Barcelona’s bad performances this season occurred when the Argentine manager seemed to be tampering too much with something that has worked so well for so long.

Osasuna didn’t really test Barcelona’s most problematic area: the defense. Gerard Pique didn’t play, with Marc Bartra joining Javier Mascherano in the middle of the defense. Barcelona’s best defense, in my opinion, doesn’t include Mascherno in it. It should be either Marc Bartra next to Pique or even using Busquets as a centre back or as a semi one, like the way Italy often use Daniele De Rossi or Portugal play with Pepe. Being cautious isn’t that wrong when playing against the hottest team in Europe, and not if you feel confident about the attack being able to handle Real Madrid, who will leave some holes in the back to exploit.

Barcelona arrive at the Bernabeu as underdogs, despite this huge win over Osasuna. Maybe it’ll work in their favor, as it possibly has for them in the visit to Manchester City in the Champions League. Real Madrid see this as a chance to finally clinch the title, while Barcelona can’t afford to drop any more points, although we’ve said that before on all three teams in this La Liga championship race.

We won’t see Barcelona having an easy time putting the ball in the box and in the net like against the visitors from the North, but Real Madrid, with all of their firepower and success recently, have their weaknesses, which Barcelona is a good enough team on some days to exploit. Lionel Messi isn’t the key – the midfield and defense playing a perfect match are more important. But Messi is the extra that Barcelona so desperately need. It hasn’t been a dreamy season for Messi – injuries and scandals have gotten in the way. But this player is about greatness, and marking his way to the imaginary hall of fame with historic moments. A huge performance and a win against Real Madrid this time will be one of his greatest.

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