Barcelona played one of their best games in a long time on Sunday, thrashing Villarreal 4-0 en route to their first win under the Dutch legend, Ronald Koeman. They played brilliantly, and the Yellow Submarine succumbed to the Catalans’ prowess in the attack.
After Real Madrid’s win against Valladolid on Wednesday, Barça already have to win again, this time at one of the most problematic grounds in Spain, Balaídos. After two nightmarish seasons in Galicia, Celta Vigo look back on track and their talisman, Iago Aspas, doesn’t seem to slow down anytime soon as he’s the league’s top scorer with three strikes in three games including two against Valencia. The stat that worries the Blaugrana fans the most is that Barcelona has not won at Balaídos in the past six seasons and thinking of a loss, or a slip-up, so early in the season would be disastrous for Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman seems to be sure about his system as he has already told Riqui Puig that he’d not fit in his plans, that without having played one competitive match at the helm of the Culés. If he lost so early in the campaign, god knows how much thinking he’d have to make before facing Sevilla, Getafe away from home and Real Madrid in a month. However, if Koeman and his side come out victorious of this ordeal on Tuesday, the Catalans might be feeling really good about themselves. The style of play Koeman proposed on Sunday was also appealing to many fans who were happy to see Messi as part of the team rather than the focal point. Everyone in the attack, apart from Griezmann, played decently with each other and they’ll have to confirm their form. For the others, including Francisco Trincão, Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann, this is their moment to shine and show their worth.
This game seems huge for the two teams, even so early in the season, and Barça have to confirm their good opener on Sunday.
Player to watch: Ousmane Dembélé
Whether it is for the last time ever or not, all eyes should be on Ousmane Dembélé. The Frenchman, who has suffered from many injuries in Catalonia, had a decent cameo against Villarreal but nothing too crazy to warrant a starting place. Griezmann’s form might, however, allow him to start if Koeman prefers him over Trincão.
The recent rumours have sent Dembélé to Manchester for a hefty price, especially in today’s market. If he plays well though, Barça might think twice before selling him, and if he has an insignificant game, it might be game over for the World Champion at Camp Nou. Dembélé’s pace, off the bench or not, might be helpful against Hugo Mallo’s aging legs and his unpredictability might be useful against a side that knows how to beat Barça at Balaídos. It is do or die for Ousmane, and he knows it.
Messi looks far from his best but continues to break records
Lionel Messi continues to break records despite coming close to the twilight of his career, making fans jump in the match against Ferencvaros. Every football fan knows that for the Argentine, team performance is more pivotal than personal acclamation. However, lately, Barcelona’s talisman was struggling a lot in the new system. Just when the fans were about to believe that the alien magic might never happen as part of Ronald Koeman’s Barca – it happened.
The abysmal start of this season showed a lack of thrill in Barcelona’s captain under Barcelona’s new boss. The speculations had already begun that the relatively cold Messi-Koeman relationship will affect both the captain and the overall team’s performance. These conjectures got more hype when Messi magic failed in La Liga’s four matches so far.
Slow start of the season
While struggling in a new role, Lionel Messi was able to score only one goal, which too was from a penalty. It is needless to say that the key caveat behind this was Argentine staying at Camp Nou against his will.
His performance in the league raised questions over his passion, and his keenness to be a part of the team anymore. Fans predicted that Messi would not be able to blossom under the new coach’s tactics. It was not about physical and technical challenges the talisman was mentally struggling too.
Messi looked to struggle initially. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)
During this chaos, things got worse when the forward failed to save Barcelona from Getafe as they fell 1-0 to the Madrid outfit in La Liga on Saturday. This defeat was the final nail in the coffin full of opinions that the best ever is not dedicated enough to save the Catalans anymore.
When the Blaugrana’s savior is constantly struggling in new positions and the overall team’s atmosphere is woeful, it is natural to lose hope. However, whenever the world doubted the king, he has proven it wrong. Thus, the talisman’s loyalists kept praying for the miracle.
Tuesday night came with that long-awaited miracle. Barcelona’s superstar continues to break records, stealing the headlines. He once again managed to prove the world wrong in a 5-1 victory game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League.
3 Records in 90 minutes
Lionel Messi had the fans and the opposition both left in eye-gazing awe, as he broke three records in a single game against Ferencvaros.
Barcelona’s captain opened the scoring from a penalty while leading the team on the four other occasions. Back in 2005, at the age of 18, Messi scored his first goal in the Champions League, and as now equalled Ryan Giggs’ record for scoringi in 16 seasons straight.
Messi also further pushed his own record of scoring the most goals in the Champions League group stages by scoring his 69th goal yesterday, pushing him six ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is second in this list.
Additionally, with his goal, Ferencvaros became Messi’s 36th victim team in Champions League. He was previously the record holder at 35 games, which makes it even more bizarre.
Three records down in one game – just Leo Messi things. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)
Barca boss admitted before the game that their superstar is struggling and could do better. However, Koeman’s prediction came true when he was full of praise for the Argentine after the game.
All these records add to the impressive Champions League collection of Lionel Messi. Putting the records aside, his performance during this match was pleasing to see. This game came as a signal that the curse has been broken and good things are on their way. Now, this can be further strengthened against Real Madrid this weekend.