FC Barcelona – Nothing Changes for Lionel Messi

Home, away, hot, rain, dry, cold. Lionel Messi has had better days in terms of his involvement in build up and passing than the 5-0 win by Barcelona over Rayo Vallecano, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the deadliest scorer in the world when given the smallest of opportunities to add a goal to his incredible record.

Once again, Barcelona come away with a much more impressive scoreline while playing away. They have a 10-3 scoring record at home this season, 19-8 on away matches. They usually struggle in early minutes due to some nice pressure and enthusiasm from the home side, but once they get the ball rollin’, it’s hard to stop them and it seems the opposition, mentally, completely break down.

Vallecano were also unlucky to see their manager, Paco Jemez, who promised he’ll never deploy the defensive tactics Celtic used in the champions league, sent off in the second half. The wheels came off from that point on, and Barcelona scored three goals in the last 12 minutes of the contest. Rayo Vallecano kept attacking desperately instead of just trying to settle down.

There’s the amazing quality of hunger in this Barcelona side. Not just for titles, but for what Americans like to call running up the score. There’s no relaxing on this side, at least not on away matches this season and for most of the Guardiola reign. The moment they sniff out blood and weakness on the opposition, it’s game over. Vallecano’s enthusiasm and motivation didn’t last for very long, and all the talk of Barcelona’s patched up defensive unit went out the door. As bad as a defense that it might be, Rayo simply didn’t have the smallest of chances to take advantage of that.

And besides the usually sublime Lionel Messi, it’s great to see Cesc Fabregas looking confident and commanding in his passing and decisions once again. That little cheating action against Sevilla really got his season back on track, despite all of the criticism around his behavior. He finished the match with a brilliant assist to David Villa (proving there is such a thing as true striker on this team) and scored a goal himself after Jordi Alba set up the groundwork.

Jordi Alba was perhaps Barcelona’s best player on the day, having a good outing defensively as well, which is a nice little change for the wing back mostly known for his ability on the opposition’s side. Alba actually gives something that wasn’t there with Abidal, and that’s another attacking option coming in from behind, this time on the left wing. It also allows whoever it is that’s playing as the left winger, this time Villa for the first 63 minutes, to move towards the middle and provide an option in the box.

There aren’t that many constants this season for Barcelona. The defense is a mess as Vilanova invents new ways to use players not in their original positions. Alex Song and Sergio Busquets shift from defensive midfielder to centre back a few times each match. Martin Montoya is doing a good job on the flank, but he isn’t a first choice at right back. Adriano was preferred as left back earlier on to Jordi Alba, and even the usually flawless midfield with Xavi at the helm has had its ups and downs.

But there’s always Lionel Messi. Sometimes you forget he’s there for a few minutes, strolling lazily, trying to find a moment he can go unnoticed and slip into a hole and prepare himself for another goal. How much is it by now? Leading the La Liga with 13 in 9 matches, 17 goals in all competitions so far. No more words left to explain and describe, but even on his weaker performances, he’s still the best bet for a Barcelona goal.

Images: source