It seems that Barcelona find a way to help out Real Madrid each time there seems to be a chance to return to the top of the Spanish La Liga. In their most recent loss, the most obvious issue was the weakness of Lionel Messi and how it dragged the entire team down.
Is it all about Messi? He was scorching heading into the match, just like the rest of his teammates, winning 11 in a row before playing against Malaga. But an early 7th minute goal by Junami thanks to a Dani Alves back pass that went bad threw their plans into the scrapper, and revealed a tired looking Barcelona team, clueless and helpless in front of an organized and very defensive opponent.
It was the first time in four matches that Messi didn’t score. It’s also the first time in 10 home matches that he didn’t score. Barcelona have lost twice at home this season – once to Celta and now to Malaga. On both occasions Messi didn’t score.
But it wasn’t just the goal that didn’t come – Messi let off only one shot at goal, which went off target. As a firm believer in his supremacy over Cristiano Ronaldo and in general in this league, it always has more to do with him than the defense in front of him, especially considering who Barcelona played on this occasions. Is it once again Messi spoiling it for Enrique due to some disagreement between the two?
Maybe players were too focused on their Champions League match with Manchester City instead of figuring out how to beat Malaga and climb momentarily to the top of the Spanish La Liga. But that’s letting them off the hook. It was a bad match for Barcelona, looking unimaginative offensively and helpless when the ball got stuck in the middle of the pitch.
Luis Enrique refused to use the Xavi solution, and instead Barcelona looked nothing like a team that has any idea on how to open up the very organized and surprisingly disciplined Malaga defense, which eventually pushed them away a bit more from the title, missing out on yet another opportunity to put pressure on Real Madrid and letting the margin grow back to four points.
The simple explanation might also be that it’s all up to Lionel Messi. Barcelona, for all of its firepower up front and talent to support Neymar and Luis Suarez, rely on their front trio more than anything else. And in that front trio is one gem, who might not get along all that well with his head coach, and a bad day from him means almost with a certainty that a win won’t be achieved. After all these years, it’s a little bit sad that Barcelona haven’t been able to develop a plan B.