One down, three of this mini-series of away matches to go.
If there’s one thing we learned from the game against Lyon, above and beyond all of the stats, commentary and noise surrounding the fixture, it’s that Leo Messi still isn’t quite right.
Don’t get me wrong, he was as influential as he could’ve been against a superbly organised Lyon, bar actually finishing a chance or two, but it looked fairly clear to me that he’s still struggling for fitness.
Lionel Messi: Had nine shots vs Lyon - no player has had more in a Champions League match this season - with just one effort hitting the target.— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 20, 2019
Match centre -- https://t.co/eQ02VgtOk3 pic.twitter.com/amG7kqtcfA
A fully fit Messi motors away from the covering defenders when surrounded, and doesn’t consistently get caught in possession.
One can argue that those around him simply weren’t giving him enough options against the French side, which meant he would uncharacteristically end up down a cul-de-sac, but there were certainly occasions when his natural burst of pace wasn’t there.
With that match now in the memory bank, there are three on the immediate horizon which will shape Barcelona’s season domestically.
Though it’s accepted that if the Blaugranes lose against Sevilla it could mean we lose the initiative in La Liga, surely the longer-term implications are less palatable.
Messi during the Lyon game #fcblive #LyonBarça pic.twitter.com/yVaQIq8Zz7— FC Barcelona Fl (@FCBarcelonaFl) February 20, 2019
The worst case scenario at this point is two losses from the next two league games, and two wins from our nearest rivals, bringing them to within one and three points of us respectively.
We would still lead the table, but, clearly, the run in wouldn’t allow for any further mistakes.
However, it’s precisely during the final matches of the season where we need all of the players, particularly the senior ones, fit and firing.
Bench Suarez and Messi against Sevilla. Even if we draw or lose the game we still topping La Liga. Keep them fresh for the Madrid games.— B.E (@esomchy) February 20, 2019
If Messi were to be out through an injury that could be avoided with an extended period of rest, can you imagine the outcry?!
Sevilla at home are a tough proposition, as Barca found out in the Copa del Rey not so long ago. But the fact remains that they’ve won once in the league since beating Girona in mid-December.
From title hopefuls to 17 points behind, Pablo Machin’s XI are struggling, big time.
It’s the perfect point to rest Messi, particularly because there’s little to no chance of Valverde so doing with regard to the Clasico double header.
Messi isn't right. Hasn't been right since his thigh injury, which he was never given time to recover from. He should NOT play at Sevilla this weekend; shouldn't even travel. Liga already won. And if he's not ready for RM double-header, leave him out then as well. Priorities.— Andy West (@andywest01) February 19, 2019
It wouldn’t even be a bad thing to leave him out of those games too, but I accept it’s highly unlikely.
I don’t want to get into the ‘Messi-dependence’ argument, and we can save that for another day in any event.
My contention is that when something so obvious is staring you in the face, it’s negligent to not act upon it. Right?