FC Barcelona – Nothing Changes for Lionel Messi

Perfection is rarely found in football or anywhere in life, but through the first 30 minutes of their derby match, Barcelona, headed by Lionel Messi, were flawless in everything they did.

Maybe it was the break that had them hungry, or maybe it was the city-rivalry. After all, 10 of the players that started for Barcelona grew up through the club’s youth system. Playing against Espanyol probably means something to them. Maybe it was Tito Vilanova back on the sidelines that prompted Barca to such a magical display of football through the first 30 minutes before taking it easy the rest of the way.

There aren’t the battles Espanyol needs to win in order to avoid relegation for yet another time, but being humiliated like this is always a worst case scenario. Hardly touching the ball, hardly managing two or three consecutive passes without being broken up or simply sending a long ball towards an isolated and lonely striker.

Barcelona, the great Barcelona of the last four years, the one that will probably go down as the greatest in history, bends to the will of the three headed monster – Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Carles Puyol is the crowd favorite, but the identity of this team is its attacking football, and the three men, none of them over 1.70, have turned it into an art form when they’re at their best.

That’s what it was for the first half hour, as Espanyol players couldn’t touch the ball and couldn’t even get near a Barcelona player to cause some sort of disruption. The big winner out of this game wasn’t Lionel Messi, who scored his 27th league goal of the season and began his 2013 goal count, but Pedro, who needed a brace more than anyone else on the pitch needed it, unless you mention Alexis and the king of the transfer rumors, David Villa.

After seemingly coming out of nowhere and immediately establishing himself as one of the best wingers in the world, Pedro had a huge setback last season. An injury that took him out for a few months and when he returned, he didn’t look like the same player. Not as quick with the ball, not as quick with his mind.

This season, he began getting more and more involved, like in the good days. The problem? The goals weren’t coming. Maybe playing in a bit more central role, asked to move from the wing into the middle in some attacking sets, hurt and restricted his natural tendencies. Pedro was always very much involved, but never found the net, except for once.

And against Espanyol? Suddenly a brace, almost a hat trick after some brilliant passing from Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. A winger that sometimes has to play like a striker and knows that first dibs on any opportunity go to Lionel Messi. Not always easy to adjust to, something David Villa is struggling with this season, and so is Alexis Sanchez, after a rather successful debut campaign for the team.

Is this how it’s going to be, again? Probably. Maybe not this easy, but it looks like the La Liga race is over. Barcelona are 11 points ahead of Atletico, 16 ahead of Real Madrid. All that’s left is setting some new scoring records, as a team and individually for Lionel Messi (on pace for another La Liga record) while moving their focus, slowly, towards the Champions League.

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