Only 29 minutes for Lionel Messi, but it’s enough for Barcelona to win their 7th consecutive match since the start of the season, something that the club has neve done before, although the circumstances of his substitution have to be somewhat of a worrying subject.
Barcelona handled their visit to Almeria efficiently. Not a brilliant performance, but for those worried about their possession, Xavi was the one who entered the match for Messi, and the sort of mayhem that spread across the pitch during the first 45 minutes which allowed Almeria to make life difficult for Barcelona and a frustrated Victor Valdes.
Things are completely different this season for Barcelona when Xavi is on or off the pitch. It’s hard to decide what’s the better option for them, because a more counter attacking, less organized and more direct approach is what we see whenever the oldest player on the team (not including the injured Puyol) isn’t in the lineup.
Adriano scoring the second goal wasn’t surprising considering the lack of focus we saw from both Alexis Sanchez and Pedro. Neymar didn’t get a second of action with Barcelona not really needing his talents. Messi was taken off as a precaution, not something too worrying, and Martino wasn’t too worried about Almeria’s attacks. Barcelona had too much possession against a bite-less opponent to feel in danger of losing their win at any stage.
However, the feeling that a goal isn’t going to come while Messi isn’t on the pitch continues to plague Barcelona matches. Adriano did score a second goal, but Barcelona struggled without him or Neymar on the pitch. The conclusion from last season was that possession football, with this defense and the striker-less formation, isn’t going to bring them the Champions League title. Without Lionel Messi on the pitch, Barcelona still need to find a way and look better.