Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a 3-2 win over Real Sociedad in La Liga on Saturday.
The Argentine superstar was the catalyst of Barcelona’s narrow win against Real Sociedad as he recorded an impressive brace and provided the assist for the goal scored by Paco Alcacer. Despite a late signal of intent by Sociedad, they failed to pull off a draw, coming back with nothing from their travels.
Here are the talking points from the game:
Messi continues to charm audiences in the 30th year of his life
Lionel Messi is continuing to defy his critics season after season, delivering at the very top level and is being a key figure in Barcelona’s quest for the La Liga title this season. He has been the perfect mentor to Neymar and Luis Suarez and has formed arguably the deadliest attacking trio in world football today.
Despite all that’s been going on on the international front with Argentina’s lacklustre World Cup qualifying performances, coupled by his ban for conduct, he shows no signs of nerves while donning the Blaugrana.
The 29-year-old seems to be in a serene pool of his own, loving what he is doing, and getting over the line, no matter what comes his way. He put in another fine showing against Sociedad on Saturday, with a well-capped double.
It was the Argentine’s 22nd goal of 2017, and his 47th in all competitions this season. It also took his overall career tally to a staggering 555 strikes. Leo seems to have at least another couple of years, if not more, at his very best, and with him in the side, Barcelona appear to be a monstrous prospect to deal with.
Fatigue is playing its toll, and Barcelona could falter if they don’t keep their heads together
It is a given that a team like Barcelona is expected to challenge on multiple fronts. Regardless of the quality of the oppositions in a particular tournament, the Catalan Giants are always among the favourites, given a shout to win it all.
However, at the end of the day, playing in a number of competitions can take its toll on players, regardless of the depth at the team. The Spanish side appeared to face a similar problem last season, and it looks to be more of the same this time around as well.
Thus, it is essential for Enrique to ensure that the fitness levels of each player are high while not exerting them to go to the extra mile as it can risk injuries, and have an adverse effect on the chances of silverware come the end of the season.
Barcelona still have to overcome a three-point deficit over Real Madrid, who have a game in hand. The Blaugrana outfit are also handed the tedious task of beating Juventus by three goals or more to progress to the Champions League semi-finals.
Also, they are set to play in the Copa del Rey final in May against Alaves. With a tight fixture list, it remains to be seen whether they cope up or crumble under the pressure.
Decision to rest Andres Iniesta did Luis Enrique no favours
Due to their congested fixture list, Enrique decided to make a bold decision by excluding Andres Iniesta from the starting eleven for the game against Real Sociedad. The much maligned Andre Gomes started in midfield alongside Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets.
It was far from an impressive showing from the trio as they were constantly bullied by Sociedad’s midfield workhorses in Xabi Prieto and former Real Madrid player Asier Illarramendi.
The hosts struggled to keep hold of the ball, and it led to a point where Enrique had to tear up his metaphorical match notes, and send in Iniesta to turn things around in the 69th minute of the contest.
His impact instantly swung the tide in the favour of Barcelona, and they began to get a firm grip of their opponents, to secure a hard fought win against a resolute Real Sociedad outfit at the Camp Nou.
Alcacer shines on his rare chance to impress in a Barcelona jersey
Paco Alcacer moved to the Camp Nou in the summer knowing that it will be an uphill battle to stake a claim on a regular starting berth. Messi, Suarez and Neymar have been irrepressible in the final third, and Alcacer is not an upgrade on either one of the trio.
So, to show why he was purchased in the summer, he is expected to impress with the handful opportunities he is provided, and giving the manager a little to think about while setting up his next team.
That is exactly what the former Valencia striker did as he found the back of the net courtesy of an exquisite pass from Messi. Apart from the goal, he looked hungry for the ball for the entirety of the match and was sharp with his link-up play in the offensive third.
Sociedad put in a spirited performance and were hard done by come the final whistle
La Real went into this contest with no hopes of coming out of it with anything other than a defeat. Despite Barcelona’s recent struggles, they are too good of a force at home, especially in the league, and were not expected to falter against Sociedad, despite their recent record at Nou Camp.
However, the visitors did cause them few minor hindrances, particularly in the second period. They learned from the mistakes in the first half, and set out in a completely different tactical shape when they walked back onto the field.
Playing at the home of Barcelona, Sociedad kept hold of the ball for a considerable amount of time, and almost had the same possession as their opponents come the full-time whistle. They have every reason to be happy with their performances against the Catalans.