Barcelona pass Real test with flying colors
Barcelona’s trip to Anoeta on Sunday looked a tricky one, particularly with Atletico surviving a late penalty to take all three points against Alaves before kick-off.
Yet Barca ran riot on a ground where they’ve famously struggled in the past to send out a real statement of intent ahead of the title run-in.
Ronald Koeman’s side scored six, had one harshly ruled out for offside and put in arguably their best performance of the season. The sixth goal in particular, made in La Masia, was something else.
El Barça de Ronald Koeman. Buenas noches. pic.twitter.com/ZLQoaOLi2S— Puyi (@PuyiFCB) March 21, 2021
There’s no doubt Barca are Spain’s best team on current form. That’s 18 games unbeaten in La Liga and nine straight away wins. The big question now is can they keep it up?
Birthday boys deliver the goods
Jordi Alba, Antoine Griezmann and Ronald Koeman all celebrated their birthdays on Sunday and all delivered the goods for the Catalan giants in a great win.
Happy birthday to us Who is the oldest?— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) March 21, 2021
Feliz cumpleaños a nosotros tres Quien es el mayor? pic.twitter.com/ciOEwl1889
Koeman’s back three continues to impress with Frenkie de Jong again playing at center-back along with Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet.
It will be interesting to see how the backline looks after the international break with Ronald Araujo back to fitness and Gerard Pique also expected to return.
Antoine Griezmann’s place may come under threat if Koeman does shake things up, but the Frenchman opened the scoring on what was his 30th birthday.
Alba also had another fine game on his 32nd birthday. The left-back is in great form currently and had a hand in two of Barcelona’s goals.
Busquets back to his best
Another player who deserves plenty of praise after Sunday’s match is Sergio Busquets. The midfielder has come in for criticism this season but has looked back to his best in recent weeks and put in a masterclass at Anoeta.
Busquets played a role in half of Barcelona’s goals, but it was his gorgeous pass over the top for Messi that was his most memorable moment. It looked simply effortless.
There’s no doubt at all that Koeman’s system is working well for a number of players, and particularly Busquets. The 32-year-old has looked completely rejuvenated and was a crucial component of Barca’s impressive win.
Dest at the double
Sergino Dest is also thriving in Koeman’s new system and scored his first La Liga goals for Barcelona. The young American also caught the eye with a lovely bit of skill out wide on the right to go past two defenders.
De padre estadounidense, madre neerlandesa y alma brasileña.— Fútbol en Movistar+ (@MovistarFutbol) March 21, 2021
Sergiño Dest. #LaCasadelFútbol pic.twitter.com/vIoivI3NaX
There’s no doubt that Dest is enjoying playing a more attacking role in Koeman’s new system, and he told Barca TV after the game he loves the new formation.
“This system is really good for me and is going well for the team. I have more space and I am more involved. I am really comfortable, playing almost as a winger, and it’s really easy for me to play in this team.”
Dest had a bit of a wobble earlier in the year amid some injury problems which brought a warning from Koeman that he needs to be more aggressive and concentrate more. The lessons seem to have been learnt with Dest really enjoying himself at the moment.
Unstoppable Messi tightens grip on Pichichi
Real Sociedad boss Imanol Aguacil described captain Lionel Messi as “unstoppable” ahead of the game, and the 33-year-old proved the coach right with an assist and two more goals.
Messi was of course making his 768th outing for Barca, taking him past Xavi’s record, and setting a new club record for appearances for the Catalan giants.
The goals mean a record-extending eighth Pichichi title is coming into view. Messi now has 23 for the season, is four ahead of Luis Suarez, and is in ridiculous form in 2021.
23 - @FCBarcelona's Lionel Messi has been involved in more goals than any other player in the top five European leagues in 2021 (23 - 16 goals and 7 assists). Gold. pic.twitter.com/QkDPkDZjoo— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 21, 2021
It’s also worth noting that Messi should now get a good rest over the international break. Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers have been postponed which means no long-haul traveling for the captain and the opportunity to take a breather in what’s been a hectic campaign.