Messi puts his name up with the greatest of all time as he becomes only the second player ever to win three World player awards in a row
That covers the soccer. Lets talk about his purple pimp suit for a second. Apparently his new found haircut and fashion sense have Shakira all hot on his trail. Maybe him and Pique will be tunnel buddies soon?
And a definite step up fashion-wise from his previous appearances at the ceremony
Barcelona’s title hopes are starting to look more and more difficult as they give up a late tie to Espanyol, giving Madrid a 5 point lead in the table. Highlights and more analysis below.
In summary Barca lacked any sort of continuity between their midfield and forwards. Combined with several squandered chances and Alexis, Messi and Fabregas disappearing for largely the entire game, Barca was unable to finish off Espanyol. A hand ball in the closing seconds that denied Barca a goal was not called for a penalty, further contributing to an unfortunate day.
Messi played possibly his most forgettable game of the season. Barca should have been able to generate more chances as the Espanyol team was attacking most of the game and the field was spread wide open. Barca’s defense played well but it was not enough to hold on to the three points
Except for Fabregas’ header (his 5th this season now) the first half was not up to Barcelona’s lofty standards.
As good as Alexis was against Real Madrid, he was that bad this game. Tentative with his shots, unable to control passes into him, and seemed confused with his placement and runs. Many times he froze on the ball and it took Messi signalling him where to pass.
Messi himself was non existent in the first half and lost the ball easily several times. Also picked up a yellow card for a handball which negated a Fabregas goal.
Valdes, usually a footnote on the clean sheet, did some up with some huge saves, but his defense was getting run over most of the time.
Tactically, playing the 3-4-3 relys on Barcelona keeping the ball, and in the first half their midfield was awful and gave up possession relentlessly. Not even against Real Madrid do I remember seeing so many counterattacks and breaks into the Barca half. Probably not in any game this season. The back three were over-whelemed and if it werent for the masterclass of Puyol and pique the score could be 4-1 easily.
The only saving grace was Puyol. The captain left no doubt that he is still the anchor of the Barca team, and put on a defensive performance of legends in the first half. Flying all around the field like a ravenous lion he was making game saving tackles, sliding in front of shots, clearing balls from the box, and coming out deep into the midfield to cut off passes and win the ball. He has been getting better and better as the season goes on, and shows absolutely no sign that his career should be ending, even at 35 years old.
Lionel Messi will be looking for his first ever away goal at Espanyol as Barca takes on that “other” team from Barcelona. Espanyol is a very difficult team to beat at home, but Barcelona should have everyone available for the game except Villa. Regardless this will be one of the most difficult games for Barca until they meet Real Madrid again, and if they let Espanyol hang around the game could get very complicated. Look for Messi and Fabregas to try to combine in the first 25 minutes to put the game at ease.
Espanyol vs FC Barcelona (1-28-2012 at 330 EST)
All of the goals were excellent. Cesc continues to be deadly in front of the net and his second goal was one of the best goals of the season. He sent a beautiful chip into the top corner that would make even Zidane jealous.
Puyol actually spent a considerable amount of time in the opponents box and was so entertaining to watch as he blundered around trying to find the net.
Messi was cheered like crazy when he entered the game, and quickly had two chances that he missed- yet they were still more beautiful than any goal most players ever score in their career. He put on a spectacle from the moment he entered the game and even though Cesc played amazing Messi reminded everyone who was the king.
Plus, a goal from a rare Messi header was an amazing way to start the year. Vamos Barca!!!
Barcelona again proved to be a class above the rest with a comfortable win at home thanks to a pair of goals by both Messi and Fabregas. Lets start with what impressed me about the game.
Fabregas steps up. With Messi resting to start the game as expected someone was going to need to be the leader on the field and within 5 minutes it was obvious that Fabregas was the man. His two goals in the first half were decisive and he did excellent to spread the ball around and get his teammates involved. All around excellent performance that should inspire confidence in Barca’s midfield attack for years to come.
Messi gets a standing ovation. Why is this impressive? Because it was in the middle of the game, on the sidelines, and all he did was put on his warmup jersey. In a game that was already won the fans couldn’t wait to see Messi back in action, like they had missed a good friend that was away for the holidays. Says everything about what Messi means to this team and its fans.
Messi needs a new title. Best player in the world just doesn’t cut it anymore. And neither do the detractors who claim his greatness is only based on the great team around him. Anyone watching that game could tell that the second Messi stepped on the pitch in the second half, it was like an entire new team was substituted on. He was picking out players on runs that had been on all game but that no one could deliver. He inspired those quick combinations at the top of the box from which Barca score so many goals. The entire team seemed to step up their tempo and their desire. Barca without Messi is like hip hop without any bass; the swagger is missing. There needs to be a new title invented for a player who can walk onto the best team in the world and elevate their collective play to a new level.
Things that concerned me:
Thiago lacks the ability to penetrate defenses. Whether on the dribble or by combining with his teammates, Thiago seems to lack the creativity to break down a defensive front. This is even more abundantly obvious with Iniesta out of the game, who is a specialist at it. Any time he felt pressure he checked the ball down to a safe spot, sometimes even when the break was on, and killed the momentum moving forward. Also failed to finish a clear chance on goal. His defensive abilities are good but he needs to get better with the ball on the attack.
Barca giving away the ball on the back line. The diagonal passes across the box have got to stop. Mascherano almost gave away a sure goal this game, and there were a few more close calls. I appreciate the dedication to possession but if you plan on playing that ball it better be in the rafters where no one can intercept it.
Lack of a legitimate forward. As Sanchez and Pedro struggle to stay fit all season, this seems to be a continuing problem. Thank God Fabregas is having a career year in front of the goal. But all things tend to even out and I find it hard to believe Fabregas will double his 13 goals in the second half of the season. Barcelona is relying on a midfield “goals by committee” approach to supplement Messi, and I just hope it is enough. With a cup match against Real Madrid now looking very likely, I expect Mourinho to take out all the stops and Barca will need to net several times to walk away winners.