Barcelona had to come from behind to beat bottom side Almeria, with goals from Messi (2) and Thiago sealing all 3 points ahead of next week’s Clasico encounter.
Perhaps with El Clasico on his mind, Guardiola named an unfamiliar starting XI. Pinto was in goal, with a back four of Alves, Pique, the awful Milito and Maxwell. Mascherano, Xavi and Thiago made up the midfield and Iniesta, Bojan (who came off injured midway through the first half for Villa) and Messi started up front.
It must be said, it was obvious this team did not play often, as Barca took an age to establish themselves in the match. Almeria were creating half-chances through corners, and normal passes were going astray. It even took until the 15th minute for the Blaugrana to register a shot!
Then it got worse. Milito was left behind, and Mascherano made a bad challenge. He was booked and therefore misses El Clasico.
I just hope this doesn’t mean that Milito plays next week.
This seemed to anger the other man in danger of suspension, as Messi attempted to drag the Blaugrana to a lead, but even his jinking runs, and mischievous one-twos couldn’t bring first half goal. Although, he did come close with the last kick of the first half, despite being from a ridiculous angle.
It was a poor first half by Barcelona’s high standards, so surely the second half couldn’t be worse?
Oh, but it was, for a while anyway.
Despite Villa hitting the post shortly after the restart, Almeria took an unexpected lead.
Barca were on the attack and Almeria countered with lightening pace. Piatti found Corona free, and he made no mistake with the finish.
The Camp Nou was shocked.
But would they keep the lead for long? No.
Villa rampaged forward down the right and was felled by Alves and the ref pointed to the spot. Up step Messi for goal number 47.
Guardiola decided that even though his team had equalised, he wanted more attack, and the awful Milito departed for Pedro. The change worked too as Almeria couldn’t cope with the movement of the MVP trio.
Then to take the lead, Thiago scored a typical Barca goal…
The corner was floated in beautifully by the imperious Messi, and Thiago rose above the Almeria centre-backs to power home an unbelievable header that nestled in the bottom corner.
Warning to Real: That’s what you get when you score against Barca.
It all seemed too tense though. Barca only had a one-goal lead, and Almeria looked fairly threatening.
So, step forward Messi, who after Keita cleared the ball up field decided to pressure the Almeria defense, and low and behold, they capitulated, and Messi won possession, raced into the area and chipped it over Diego Alves for the third, and his 47th of the season.
He now ties “fat” Ronaldo for club record goals in a season, and is ahead of the Portuguese one in the race for the Pichichi.
All in all a good day for him.
Messi was simply devastating today, and considering he was responsible for all 3 goals, he is undoubtedly my Man of the Match.
Congrats to Bostjan who correctly gussed the scoreline.