Lionel Messi is on an incredible run of form
Lionel Messi was on target against Girona. Of course he was. It’s what he does. He’s now scored 19 La Liga goals, and it’s only January, and he missed a few weeks with a broken arm.
Even more incredibly he’s now produced a goal or an assist in every single league match he’s played in since September.
Leo Messi has scored or assisted in every La Liga game he’s played in since September.— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 27, 2019
That works out as 15 games with 15 goals and eight assists. The last time he did not produce a goal or an assist was against Real Sociedad on September 15, a run of 15 games, which is simply remarkable consistency from the captain.
Ter Stegen gets the better of Stuani
Barcelona were a little fortunate to escape with a clean sheet on Sunday night, and they probably would not have done so without Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Girona had plenty of chances to score and will feel they deserved at least one goal. Gerard Pique cleared off the line, while Ter Stegen won his own personal battle with Cristhian Stuani.
He admitted after the match it was a tough test for his team.
Always a tough game to play at Estadi Montilivi. I’m happy we won today and that we keep the distance to the teams behind us. And now let’s fight for Copa at Camp Nou! #DesireToWin #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/f87Q3C9xGx— Marc ter Stegen (@mterstegen1) January 27, 2019
Three times Stuani had chances to score for Girona, and three times he was denied by Ter Stegen. We all know how good the German is, but there’s no denying he played a key role in Sunday’s win.
Coutinho’s bad patch shows no sign of ending
Ousmane Dembele’s injury has given Philippe Coutinho a great chance to enjoy some game time but he’s struggling to shake off his poor form.
He was sent clean through early on at Montilivi with a great chance to score and gain some much-needed confidence but was denied by Bono.
Messi's pass... @Bonoyass with the save! ✋#GironaBarça pic.twitter.com/v9xdeMqIOd— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) January 27, 2019
He was given another chance in stoppage time but again wasted it. This time he ended up being forced too wide and could only produce a tame finish.
Valverde backed him to start scoring soon after the match, and Coutinho really needs something to get him going again.
Barcelona are better with Arthur
Ernesto Valverde opted to leave Arthur on the bench for this one with Arturo Vidal lining up against Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic in midfield.
The young Brazilian arrived just before the hour mark, and it was no coincidence that Barcelona improved with the 22-year-old on the pitch.
Of course it helped that Girona had been reducd to 10 men by that point, but Arthur’s poise in posssession helped Barca take control.
Valverde admitted as much after the match (via ESPN): “When Arthur comes on, he has the capacity to keep the ball. They were also playing with 10 men at that point, so it was already a question of controlling the ball and looking for the free man. Arthur’s good at that.”
Alba keeps racking up the assists
Another goal for Messi, another assist for Alba. The Barcelona left-back is now only the second La Liga player to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season.
2 - @FCBarcelona defender Jordi Alba is the second @LaLigaEN player to reach 10+ assists this season in all competitions, after Lionel Messi (13). Duo. pic.twitter.com/XXrAqEsXNQ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 27, 2019
The link-up between the two is nothing new, but it still seems teams can do little to prevent the pair from wreaking havoc together.
Alba talked about his relationship with Messi ahead of the match and said the Argentine “knows me perfectly.”
What looks certain is that this is not the last time this season we’ll see the two combine for a Barcelona goal.