Barcelona are back to the winning ways in La Liga after an impressive 5-1 victory on the road against Leganés in a tough match against a bold, attacking Madrid side. Messi ran the show and along with his 'MSN' teammates reached an unbelievable mark of 250 goals in just two years as a trio. As we celebrate a great win, here's a few takeaways from what we saw on Saturday's early kickoff:
1 - Barça are comfortable under pressure
This might sound dumb, but it makes sense. Under Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova and Tata Martino the Catalans always had the ball for most of the time, and they needed to be as far away from their own box as possible to avoid problems at the back. Luis Enrique came in and introduced a counter-attacking edge to the Blaugrana, and for that to work the team had to learn how to defend deep and close to the area. It took a few months, but since last season Barça look very comfortable under pressure from the opponent, and when they have to defend, they do it well.
Saturday was an example. Since the passing wasn't good in the first few minutes, Barça lost the ball a lot and Leganés were on the front foot for quite a while, but the Catalans never looked shaky or nervous at the back. We're not really used to seeing Barça defend yet, so we're always anxious. But the team is calm and composed, and when they got the ball back, even from deep positions, they were able to hit Leganés on the counter and destroy them on the break. The win against Athletic Bilbao a few weeks ago came in similar fashion, and it just proves that Lucho has done an amazing job in making sure this team is ready to play without the ball if need be. And it works.
2 - Rafinha Alcântara is back
Ever since he suffered a bad knee injury a year ago, Rafinha was never able to replicate the great football he displayed in the first half of 2015. He was a constant presence on the team before the injury, but since his comeback he didn't have many minutes and looked like a forgotten piece. But he regained not only his confidence, but also Luis Enrique's with his display against Leganés. His goal was sensational, but it wasn't the only good moment from Rafinha's performance. He was sharp going forward, played a necessary defensive part and looked as good as we've seen in a long time. He needed a game like this to boost his confidence, and he should play more often from now on.
3 - Neymar is a complicated issue
It's really, really, really hard to comment on Neymar, so here's my best shot at summarizing his situation: as long as the good outweighs the bad, we shouldn't look at the bad too much. Sure, he did say stuff to opponents and even his own teammate that he shouldn't have said, and his "showboating" with a big lead was a reason for criticism again. I honestly do not care about the showboating, because it's a part of his game and you just can't take it away from him, it's just his personality and I'm sure the players and coaches around him don't want him change. And while the words that came out of his mouth were unnecessary and bad, they can't be more important than the great performance he had, the second in a row this week.
We all want Neymar to be the new Messi, even when it comes to his behaviour. Unfortunately, they're two very different people who have been raised differently and have different playing styles and personalities. Neymar might be the new Messi with the ball on his feet, but their minds and attitudes are different, it's a simple fact. But once again: as long as Neymar is doing more good things than bad, the bad shouldn't really be that big a deal. When it starts to affect his football and becomes more visible than his positive stuff, then it's a problem. Right now, it isn't.