Neymar and Lionel Messi shined with one goal and one assist each as El Blaugrana rolled past Real Sociedad by the score of 4-1 Tuesday night at the Camp Nou. Tata Martino is off to the best start as a La Liga manager, as his team's six wins and goal differential of +17 is a record.
Neymar got his goal in the 5th minute as an Alexis Sanchez cross somehow slipped through the sloppy La Real defense, and the Brazilian wonder kid tapped it in for the 1-0 lead.
Lionel Messi grabbed his 7th goal of his La Liga season just three minutes later as a beautiful cross from Neymar found an unmarked Leo who headed it in for the 2-0 score line. Even though Neymar is not going crazy with goals, he now has gone five games in a row with an assist.
Sergio Busquets made it 3-0 in the 23nd minute as Messi nearly got a goal, but hit the crossbar. The ball came to La Real's Antoine Griezmann whose pass was then stolen by Busquets and Busi slamed a long shot which got past Claudio Bravo to make it 3-0.
Marc Bartra came in for Javier Mascherano in the first half, who left the game with a thigh muscle injury, and is expected to be out for at minimum one week. In the second half, Alberto De la Bella made it 3-1 in the 64th minute as he tapped in an Imanol Agirretxe pass in front of Victor Valdes. Gerard Pique's defending was very poor on the play. Marc Bartra made it 4-1 in the 77th minute as a terrific run by Messi led to a short cross by Leo which found Bartra's feet for his first goal of the season.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
The Best: Neymar and Lionel Messi
It was great to see the combination of NeyMessi get things rolling against La Real. Neymar was at the right place at the right time for his first goal. And his cross to Leo for Barcelona's second goal was brilliant.
Leo's header = Lovely
What makes me happier is the fact that Neymar has come to this team and has essentially lifted the creative weight off Messi's shoulder a bit, especially when it comes to setting up the shot. It almost feels like the ball always goes to Neymar to start all offensive plays. And why not? He's showing us he can handle the burden. Eventually, it can't all go through Neymar, but that's where Messi, Alexis Sanchez, and Pedro come into play. Of course, Neymar has the best midfield in the world to rely on as well.
BTW: Did you see Neymar and Messi bring out their kids on to the pitch before the game? Very cute. Who knows, maybe one day we'll see David Lucca da Silva and Thiago Messi together as FC Barcelona players and teammates!
Messi Stats of the Game
Lionel Messi could have had three or four goals in this game. But as much as we all would have liked to have seen that, Leo still had a dominating performance. Let's look at some of the stats on the night for Leo:
Messi has now scored in each of his last 13 home games for Barcelona in La Liga (22 goals). (via @MessiStats
Messi has now scored 14 official goals in his career by head: 13 for Barcelona and 1 for Argentina
Messi has scored 8 of his 222 Liga goals with his head [via @pedritonumeros]
Lionel Messi has scored his 323rd official goal for Barcelona, equaling Real Madrid all-time top scorer Raul (via Catalunya Radio).
Messi has scored his 323 Barcelona goals in 387 games. Real Madrid top scorer Raul scored his 323 Madrid goals in 741 games. (via Catalunya Radio)
300 - With 222 goals and 88 assists, Leo Mess has been directly involved in 300 goals in 251 games in La Liga. (via @Messi10Stats)
Including friendly and competitive games, Lionel Messi has been involved in 483 goals during his 428 game career thus far for FC Barcelona: 350 goals and 133 assists. (via @MessiStats)
And he's only 26 years old.
Grande Leo! Grande Messi!
What We Learned?: This FC Barcelona team is still not at its best...and that's the scary part.
As dominating as Barcelona was on Tuesday night against Real Sociedad, it's still clear that this team is not at its best. And that's the scary part of the rest of La Liga, maybe even for the rest of Europe.
Messi could have had a hat trick, Neymar could have had another goal, and Alexis and Pedro could have gotten a goal each as well. I know this performance was against a poorly defensive-on-the-night La Real side, but still, this FC Barcelona offense will only get better as the season moves forward. Tata's rotation is an important element in all of this. The rotation will not only give players rest, but it will make the players play with teammates that they previously may have not played many minutes in a competitive game with. It's one thing to train with all your teammates, but the chemistry you gain with a teammate in a competitive game is unmatched.
There is still much room for improvement, especially on the defensive end. As we've seen against La Real and Sevilla a few weeks ago, the defense tends to get too comfortable and eventually gives up a goal. Sevilla put up two goals quickly and nearly got the draw, and on Tuesday, Gerard Pique and Adriano's bad defense led to the La Real tap-in goal. Yes, Victor Valdes has been playing great, so has the offense, but this team needs its defense to show more heart and not get sloppy.
As great as the Barcelona offense is, we all know it won't put up four or five goals every game, especially in the Champions League. There are many good clubs with good defenses in Europe. I'm not concerned about La Liga; it's the Champions League that worries me with this defense. Hopefully, Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya can become even more important players for this team as the season goes by, and the return of Carles Puyol will help as well.
What's Next?: Saturday at Almeria
Tata Martino will lead his men to Andalusia as FC Barcelona will take on Almeria on Saturday. Look for Cristian Tello to get a start, as he hasn't started a game recently. Marc Bartra should start as well as Javier Mascherano's injury gives room for Marc alongside Pique. A rested Cesc Fabregas is expected to start as well.
Could we see Sergi Roberto get more time? It's very possible, as Barcelona will need to rest up Xavi and Andres Iniesta as much as they can before the team heads to Scotland for their Champions League match against Celtic FC next midweek.
Xoel's Final Word
It was a stellar performance by Barça on Tuesday night as they rolled past Real Sociedad by 4-1 at the Camp Nou. Neymar and Messi were simply brilliant.
No time to rest for FC Barcelona as La Liga continues on Saturday at Almeria. Hard work is always needed, but the fruits of their labor are awarded with wins, celebrations, team chemistry built, gained confidence, and focus & dedication that opponents cannot match.
Let's keep it going, boys!
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona