Barca make it a Happy Christmas
After dropping points against Valencia last time out Barcelona at least made it a Happy Christmas with an impressive win at Real Valladolid.
There was a lot to like about Barca’s performance too. The team scored three good goals, grabbed a clean sheet and the smile was back on Lionel Messi’s face.
Far tougher tests than Real Valladolid await of course but this was still an important win that keeps Barca in fifth but just two points behind Real Sociedad having played two games less.
It’s also a rare away win for Barca on the road in 2020-21. The Catalan giants had only beaten Celta Vigo on their travels this season but secured a second away win at Valladolid.
Messi beats Pele with 644th goal
Another high point from the match was Messi’s 644th Barcelona goal which saw him beat Pele’s record and become the player to have scored the most goals for a single club.
In true Messi style it was a fine goal too. Pedri sent his captain through on goal with a neat assist and the 33-year-old made no mistake with the finish.
Messi also picked up his first assist of the season in the match too, crossing for Clement Lenglet to open the scoring and was once again involved in just about everything.
The captain’s latest goal also puts him back in the race for Pichichi in the week that he collected the trophy for the seventh time. It’s been a slow start to the season for Messi and Barca but the captain is now just one behind Gerard Moreno in the topscorer charts.
Koeman’s formation tweak pays off
Koeman’s teamsheet made for interesting reading ahead of the game with Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet and Ronald Araujo all starting in a back three. Meanwhile, big-money buys Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann were left on the bench along with Sergio Busquets.
It was a bold move by the Dutch coach but paid off well as Barca put in a much-improved performance and were convincing winners. The new system allowed players such as Frenkie de Jong and Sergino Dest to thrive, while Martin Braithwaite netted his fifth goal of the season and could have had a couple more.
It’s the sort of performance that will give Koeman plenty to think about ahead of Barca’s next match against Eibar. Does he stick with his new formation? And what does he do about Coutinho and Griezmann?
Pjanic takes his chance
It was also a good night for Miralem Pjanic who has handed just his second La Liga start since his summer move from Juventus. The midfielder has made his frustration at his lack of game time quite clear and offered a reminder of his talents.
Koeman’s reluctance to use Pjanic much so far has been a surprise, but he may just have conviced the Dutchman of his qualities. The 30-year-old brought calm to the Barca midfielder and topped a number of stats.
The Barca boss also offered some rare praise to Pjanic after the match: “Pjanic had to wait for his chance but he played a great game. He was good with the ball, but also defensively.” Will he now keep his place against Eibar?
Pedri gives Messi another reason to stay?
There’s been plenty of talk about Messi’s future again this week with a new interview with the captain set to be broadcast on Sunday, but if the captain is looking for reasons to stay he’s found a big one in Pedri.
The connection between the two players was there for all to see against Real Valladolid, and despite having only just turned 18 it seems that young Pedri is already on the same wavelength as his captain.
Indeed his first assist in a Barcelona shirt came when he backheeled the ball through to Messi to score the goal that beat Pele’s historic record. The exciting thing is that these two are only going to get better together as the season progresses.