Lionel Messi scored his 36th league goal of the season, putting him one behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the equally interesting Pichichi race, capping off Barcelona’s 2-0 win that began with Andres Iniesta’s goal over the worn out Athletic Bilbao, keeping them six points behind Real Madrid with 8 matches left in the bag.
It wasn’t as impressive or decisive as Real Madrid’s 5-1 win in Osasuna was, but it was certainly enough. Bilbao managed only one shot at the Barcelona goal, while Gorka Iraizoz was the busiest player on the pitch, stopping 12 of Barcelona’s 14 shots on goal. Against a team who has now won 14 of their 15 home matches, with a 60-8 scoring record, there wasn’t much left for the Basque side to do.
Someone was going to get only two days of rest. Surprisingly, or not, it was Bilbao, who beat Schalke, impressively, 4-2 in the Europa League, not even getting a chance to go home for the Barcelona match. Almost sending them in into a sure defeat. Barcelona, in the sandwich of the AC Milan clashes in the Champions League, didn’t play with too much of apparent urgency. Seemingly, knowing the goals will come anyway.
And so they did. Iniesta rifled in from close range while Messi scored from the penalty spot early in the second half. In between? Dani Alves running a lot, more Tello trickery that didn’t amount to much, Alexis trying to regain his form from earlier this season and Pedro still looking for it since the beginning of the season.
Experimenting? Not too much. Guardiola probably was thinking about how he’ll find some bunker-busters, as everyone are predicting that Milan will simply park the bus on Tuesday and hope to steal an away goal. It worked for them in the group stage encounter, stunning Barcelona in the first minute and the final as well, grabbing an unlikely and undeserved 2-2 draw.
But Barcelona seem simply too good right now to actually blow this. But the shadows and ghosts from the Inter game two years ago are in the minds, somewhere, I’m sure. With that kind of mindset, the 0-0 was actually a good result. Barcelona won’t have to be doing so much chasing around to qualify, unless Milan stun them early again. Considering Pato has been terrible this season, ever since that goal, that is highly unlikely.