The Spanish La Liga is so over, and we’re only in the middle of January. Barcelona are on cruise control for the rest of the season while bigger challenges await in the Champions League, although it doesn’t mean Lionel Messi is going to stop scoring.
Goals number 300 and 301 for the little man that just doesn’t stop. He has scored a goal in 14 consecutive La Liga matches, as Barcelona open a momentary lead of 15 points over Atletico Madrid and 19 over Real Madrid. After 24 matches, only 7 points have been dropped out of a possible 72, putting them just over 90% success rate.
Sometimes it feels Barcelona just want to show Real Madrid they can succeed in all the places Real couldn’t. Shortly after a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal gives them another loss (their fifth in the league this season), Barcelona travel to the same ground, fall behind 1-0 after 25 minutes yet enjoy the abilities of Lionel Messi, which had nothing to do with the match and they way it progressed – first by being the first to react, as he usually does, to a terrible parry by Toño, and 23 minutes later he followed it with another free kick goal. NO one usually mentions Messi to be among the best free kick takers in the world, but the goals just keep pouring in.
A question that does rise from the lukewarm performance of Barcelona in Granada is the continuity problem – does this match mean anything when it comes to the Champions League clash with AC Milan? Probably not. Barcelona aren’t usually the team to give up on matches while thinking ahead; much more of a deal with one at a time club; the more successful ones usually are, but it’s hard to imagine the competitiveness and cutting edge are the same as they were earlier this season, when the title wasn’t a guaranteed thing.
The biggest question is probably the status of Xavi, who wasn’t in the squad that played and dressed up for the Granada match. Withotu Xavi, despite Iniesta, Fabregas and Thiago, something regarding the Barcelona domination in the middle of the pitch just doesn’t work. Milan do not have the strongest of midfield unites, and without Mario Balotelli certainly lack a lot of their recent swagger, but it has more to do with a disorganized Barcelona than a good Milan team. It’s still too soon to tell who will be in the lineup, but without Xavi, despite the attempts to groom or convert certain players as heirs, Barcelona are usually a very different team.
In any case, Barca will need a lot more from players like Pedro and Alexis. They both had very weak matches, as Barcelona struggled to create chances while Iniesta was on the bench. Messi had to do too much work out of his comfort zone, while Sanchez and Pedro were cut off from their usual ball supply. If there’s a worry for Barcelona to have and take from this match, is their inability to find room for their forwards without their two best midfielders. If Lionel Messi doesn’t have to worry about creating for others all match long, he’s good for a goal or two anytime, anywhere.