Who cares about breaking records when your team keeps losing in every big match? Lionel Messi now has more goals than anyone else (except for one player) in Clasico matches, ever, but Barcelona keep losing to their biggest rivals and the confidence and belief at least form the outside, seems shattered.
With their backs against the wall, you’d think Barcelona would come up with more than just five shots at goal, two of them on target, both of them by only one player. Lionel Messi managed to break free for the first time in the Madrid double + Milan trio of matches into a one on one situation, finishing like everyone expects him to. The second time, not too long afterwards, was him not feeling too comfortable with his more natural left foot, switching to the right and coming up with a shot that didn’t trouble Diego Lopez too much.
That was what Barcelona brought to the table, as Xavi stayed outside the squad, and Barcelona could bring their tiring ball movement to match only during the first half, never really making it their kind of game. Once the second half began, Messi wasn’t in the match, and the ball was too many times in the feet of Andres Iniesta, instead of him finding others to make the most of opportunities. All the people who could be dangerous hardly got a whiff of possession, as both Pedro and David Villa on both wings didn’t really show up.
What’s the use of having David Villa on the pitch when he never tries to make a cut towards the middle? Why doesn’t Lionel Messi try to come out of the trio or foursome that covers him around 25-30 meters from the goal, and shift the focus of the match to the wing, allowing Pedro a chance to run behind the defense, something he does so well, and maybe give Iniesta and Villa a chance to lose their markers?
The lack of ideas, creativity and ingenuity from Barcelona once things don’t go their way must be the most worrying thing, as Jordi Roura isn’t left with much in his arsenal of ideas but shouting ‘Vamos’ to the players on the field, hoping that a motivational cry will get them out of whatever it is that’s holding them back.
The problems in defense weren’t solved with Javier Mascherano. Instead of keeping Puyol and moving Mascherano to the midfield instead of Sergio Busquets, who is having a terrible second half to the season, Barcelona are stuck. Instead of giving Dani Alves a benching he deserves, Martin Montoya remains looking from the outside, knowing he’s a much better defensive player, something that Barca desperately need at this point.
Not all is lost, and AC Milan’s parking of the bus which is probably planned for the second leg won’t be as effective as it was at the San Siro. But Barcelona need a plan B, more than ever before, as for the second straight season a string of big matches finds them helpless once their opponents figured out how to stop them. It’s going to take more than Lionel Messi finding his abnormal form again, but it has a lot to do with his realization that keeping on playing the way he has isn’t going to take Barcelona too far.