One goal, two assists. Lionel Messi in one of those matches with a minimal effort but maximum production, as Barcelona simply put on another show for about 30-45 minutes, making sure their opponents, this time Malaga, could interfere with their coasting towards a fourth La Liga title in five years.
Halfway through the season, and they’re 11 points ahead of Atletico Madrid, a team that doesn’t have them worried too much, and 18 from Real Madrid, who used to worry them but now look as somewhat of a comedic relief while Barcelona simply steamroll their way through a league that’s very hard to measure because of the two biggest teams in it.
Sometimes it seems that Barcelona turned it up a notch because they knew Real Madrid fell in the same stadium not too long ago, and want to prove just how easy it is for them to win where Jose Mourinho and his men couldn’t. After 15 or 20 minutes of letting Isco feel comfortable and at time superior, they turned up the pressure in the midfield. Sergio Busquets didn’t leave the young talent, and Malaga disappeared off the grid.
That was all it took. Lionel Messi didn’t even have to work hard to open the scoring – Nacho Camacho sent a back pass without looking and recognizing the lurking Messi before it was too late. Caballero was proving to be quite a formidable obstacle up to that point, but you can’t give anyone, especially Lionel Messi, chances as easy as this. He’s off to a “slow” start in 2013, but it was his ninth consecutive match with a goal.
From here, Messi actually moved back a bit from the false “9” position and began playing as somewhat of a playmaker, drawing a defender or two with him, creating spaces for Cesc Fabregas to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute after a beautiful assist by Messi and 3-0 from Thiago after a quick and effective 1-2 with Messi.
That was all she wrote, in one of the toughest stadiums in Spain. Xavi just didn’t make mistakes, Andres Iniesta managed to free himself and someone else every time he touched the ball and there wasn’t much left for Malaga to do. During Barcelona’s dominant minutes, which was most of the match, one of the most enjoyable teams to watch this season in Spain and the Champions League simply couldn’t sniff out an opportunity. That’s how far Barcelona are from the rest of the league, and from the rest of Europe.
For Lionel Messi, it’s business as usual. The Ballon d’Or, the rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo – it all just blows above his head, while he continues to deliver the numbers and the goods. There have been problems for the Barcelona defense this season in its changing and altering formations and names on the list, but in recent weeks it look like Busquets is doing such an excellent job in the defensive midfield that that defensive unit is hardly ever tested.
It’s hard to grasp the ease in which Barcelona are dominating the La Liga this season, beating every team except for Real Madrid. Eighteen wins, one draw. Unheard of, but this team just shows last season wasn’t a change of guard – only a down year. With Lionel Messi impossibly still getting better, while Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas provide the perfect midfield unit to rely on, finishing the season undefeated doesn’t look like such an unreachable dream anymore.