Just another day in the office, despite everything, for Barcelona and even more so, Lionel Messi. The 2012 calendar year will end for the best player in the world with 91 goals to his name, make of it what you will. The important thing for him and his team is that they’re practically untouchable at the top of the table as we reach the Christmas break.
No matter who was going to star and start for Barcelona, the focus was going to be on two people – one who wasn’t even in the stadium, Tito Vilanova, and Lionel Messi, who is the center draw every time he steps onto the pitch, usually delivering accordingly to that billing. Jordi Roura? He was hardly noticed, as there was nothing different about Barcelona from what we’ve been seeing all year.
Efficient, at times brilliant. Xavi had a very good match in the middle, despite the aggressive effort from Valladolid, who make life tough for any visitor to the Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorilla, but just couldn’t find much more than Manucho to make Barcelona work hard for the win. Yes, there was that late Javi Guerra goal and good intentions from Valladolid, but it just wasn’t enough against another efficient and powerful display of Barcelona’s blend of tactics, passing style and individual skill.
Lionel Messi had one of those matches, like most of them this season, when you don’t really feel him from long stretches, but the moment he got a little bit of space, it was all over. He wasn’t the first to score; Xavi was, connecting with a cross from Jordi Alba. Messi waited till the 59th minute to get on the scoresheet for the 26th time in this La Liga season, Xavi setting him up and Messi doing a bit more to embarrass a defender or two before accurately putting into the net.
In the never ending discussions about Messi’s place in history, this comes to mind – there have been players we’ve enjoyed watching more. Ronaldinho was pure magic when he was in his prime, that didn’t lost long enough. Playing beautifully and winning with it. Messi makes you go wow quite often, although it seems there isn’t anything we haven’t seen from him in recent years. Messi doesn’t excite viewers the way Ronaldinho is, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the most efficient and deadly scorer that the footballing world has ever seen. He wasn’t like that from the get go, but that’ where he’s at right now, doing it for 5 consecutive season. It doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon.
The forwards around him, on the other hand, struggle. Not that they don’t get their chances. Both Pedro and Alexis look dangerous every time they touch the ball, but Alexis simply can’t get anything to go for him, even when it’s not a shooting opportunity, unable to set up a chance for someone else. Pedro does everything right until the final shot, but his presence gives speed and width to the team, especially on counters and the seconds after intercepting another pass.
Nothing new, nothing to tell. Barcelona now have a nine point lead over Atletico Madrid, a team we saw they don’t have to worry much about. They have a 16 point lead over Real Madrid, which won’t be erased. Tito Vilanova can take his time making his way back to the sidelines. His team is in good hands, regardless of the manager’s identity.