Time to get excited about Barca?
48 - Lionel Messi has scored 48 direct free-kick goals for @FCBarcelona in all competitions (37 in @LaLiga), one more than Cristiano Ronaldo in his profesional club career (47, 32 in league). Stars. pic.twitter.com/sKujVwD6p6— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 9, 2021
It’s been difficult to know what to make of Barcelona this season, but this performance suggests that it’s possibly time to get just a little bit excited about this team.
The 4-0 win was the perfect follow-up to Wednesday’s impressive win over Athletic, extends the unbeaten run to eight games and brought plenty of positives for the Catalan giants.
Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann were both in the goals, Samuel Umtiti managed 90 minutes, Barca kept a clean sheet away from home and even Riqui Puig saw some game time.
Barca are now just three points behind Real Madrid in the table, Messi is back on top of the Pichichi standings and the team heads into the Spanish Super Cup in great shape.
Messi’s looking razor sharp
One of the reasons for Barca’s improved form has been down to Messi. The captain seems refreshed after the Christmas break and now has four goals and an assist in his last three games.
Both goals against Granada were typically brilliant efforts. The first was an unstoppable finish into the top corner and the second a clever free-kick to bring an end to a recent drought from set-pieces.
The smile has certainly returned to Messi’s face in the last few weeks and he didn’t even look too bothered to be taken off in the second half and given a rest when Barca were 4-0 up and cruising.
It’s not just the smile that’s back though. Messi hadn’t been quite at his very best in front of goal at the start of the season but suddenly looks as sharp as ever.
Griezmann ends drought
Messi wasn’t the only one in the goals on Saturday. Griezmann scored for the first time in La Liga since November to get the visitors up and running with a neat turn and finish on 14 minutes.
It was a goal the Frenchman badly needed after a dry patch and he went on to put in his best performance in a Barca shirt for a long time. A neat assist for Messi made it 2-0 before Griezmann wrapped up the scoring with another brilliant finish.
3 - Antoine Griezmann (two goals and one assist against Granada) has been involved in three goals in the same game for @FCBarcelona for the second time in all competitions (two goals and one assist against Real Betis in August 2019). Dance. pic.twitter.com/zGCcwpvn2y— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 9, 2021
The question now is whether Griezmann can maintain this sort of form. The Frenchman is in the midst of another underwhelming season for Barcelona and more performances like this one are badly needed.
Mingueza and Umtiti step up
Koeman opted to bring in Oscar Mingueza to replace the suspended Clement Lenglet at Granada and then ended up fielding Samuel Umtiti too after Ronald Araujo picked up a thigh problem in the warm-up.
It certainly wasn’t the best start to the game, with Griezmann admitting after the match that Umtiti hadn’t been quite ready for the match, but the two players can be proud of a pretty good evening’s work at Los Carmenes.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen was still called up to make some important saves, but Mingueza showed again what a fine prospect he is and Umtiti was pretty impressive on what was his first start of the season.
Busquets shines on 600th showing
Another player who deserves credit, and who hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons so far, was Sergio Busquets who was making his 600th appearance for Barcelona on Saturday.
Only Xavi, Messi and Andrés Iniesta have played more games for the Catalan giants, and Busquets put in an impressive showing as he celebrated the latest landmark in his career.
There have of course been question marks over Busquets’s place in the starting XI this season, particularly following the arrival of Miralem Pjanic from Juventus over the summer. Yet the 32-year-old still appears to be Koeman’s first choice and certainly rose to the occasion on Wednesday with one of his best performances of the season so far.