After a somewhat quiet clasico, most likely for fear of his life at the scythes of Pepe and Ramos, Messi came out and completely dominated this game.
With Xavi on the bench Messi took over as play maker and goalscorer in the first half, leaving no doubt that he is the engine of this team and undoubtedly the best player in the world. His header was aimed precisely at his critics, with a perfect airborne finish into the side net. His passes were creative, precise, and mind bogglingly quick, appearing sometimes to have premonitions as he created plays that no one else on the field even saw developing. Sometimes he was so quick that his teammates were caught off guard and squandered what could have been incredible goals. Which brings me to my next point…
The Messi-Abidal Connection. After the wondergoal at Real Madrid, Messi and Abidal seem to be firing on all cylinders, with Messi supplying no less than 5 balls into the box to Abidal in just the first half (one which released him completely free on goal). While this is a great addition to the attack, my question is why does it seem that, other than Messi, Barcelona is relying on their defenders now to generate goals. In watching Abidal try to deal with these clear cut chances, its apparent that he does not have the deftness of a true attacker and even when released on goal it is still a low percentage chance that he will score. Releasing him 1v1 with the goalie like setting up your center in basketball with a wide open 3. The crowd jumps to their feet, but odds are it’s not going in. Why has Barcelona NOT been able to consistently set up their forwards with goalscoring chances? Sanchez has played great but is being used as a holding player for most of the game and a relentless pest to the central defenders. Adriano is in a makeshift forward role but is more comfortable from the outside, and is also very unlikely to finish on a piercing run into the box. Bottom line, I miss Villa and Pedro.
Yet Barcelona has managed this season with a ‘goals by committee’ approach, but to win championships you tend to need some great individual efforts in front of goal as well. Let’s hope Messi’s form does not waver as this season draws towards its climax.