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Better from Barcelona who still need Messi to come to their rescue

Green shoots against Levante

FC Barcelona v Levante UD - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

It wasn’t close to Barca’s best against Levante, a team who have never earned even a single point at the Camp Nou and who are down in the bottom three at present, but nor was it their worst performance.

There were little green shoots that hint at brighter days ahead, and the game certainly turned on Ronald Koeman’s substitutions.

If we are to berate him when things go wrong, then we should have the good grace to doff the cap when he makes it work.

On another night we could’ve had a hatful, and were it not for Aitor Fernandez, the game would’ve been over before an hour had been played.

As it was, we bit our collective nails until Lionel Messi - who else - grabbed the game winner with 14 to play.

It was the Argentinian’s 600th goal in the No.10 shirt, and 642nd of his Barca career, just one behind Pele’s all-time record for goals with one club.

The occasional suggestions on here that he’s not as good as he was don’t really stack up under scrutiny, especially when you consider stats like this one:

In that game, Leo was a more decisive presence playing further forward. He’s going to have to accept now, that as he loses that acceleration from a standing start, by having so many opposition players around him, chances will be few and far between.

Dropping deep really isn’t doing him, or the team, any favours. He doesn’t run, so what. Let someone else do the leg work and have him where he can affect play much quicker. Where he unsettles defences with his every touch.

Barca are so easy to play against when he’s stuck up by the half-way line and trying to manipulate passes through two tight banks of four.

FC Barcelona v Levante UD - La Liga Santander Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Aside from Messi’s magic, we saw again how important Martin Braithwaite is to this side. He needs to work on his first touch yes, but his movement is good and his ideas are often smart.

Ditto Pedri. I know Busi drew level with Carles Puyol tonight in appearance terms, but he really is showing his age now. Wherever Pedri is asked to play, be in central midfield, out wide or inside, he makes things happen.

Clearly his age remains a factor and he needs to be looked after, however, Barca look more creative and fluid with him in the team.

Riqui Puig is of a similar ilk, always on the front foot, but after Koeman’s latest revelations it’s likely the Dutchman will marginalise him further and make an example of him.

In any event, that’s three much needed points, and if we can take three more against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, a winning run pre-Christmas could set us up very nicely indeed.

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