Barcelona put a rough week behind them with an emphatic victory over Celta Vigo on Saturday, Lionel Messi scoring a sumptuous hat trick to send his side back to the top of La Liga.
After a tentative start, Celta defender Aidoo unintentionally handled the ball in the area in the 22nd minute, allowing Messi to score the first of the night and the 610th of his senior club career. The little Argentine was ‘as cool as a polar bear’s backside’, according to match commentator Ray Hudson, as he slotted the ball to Rubén’s right hand side.
Messi might have thought he had scored his 611th senior club goal after poking home from an Arthur Melo cross, but a VAR review showed the ball had gone out of play prior to Messi’s strike.
The 32-year-old Barca captain could not stay away from the action, although this time it was in a negative sense as he fouled Celta’s Pape Cheikh whilst tracking back. The resulting free-kick was beautifully curled up and over the Barca wall by Lucas Olaza into the bottom right-hand corner, narrowly beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Messi doubled his goal tally for the night before you could say ‘Catalonia’, this time his stunning free kick arrowed past a hapless Rubén into the top left bins for number 611. And breathe.
The second half started as the first finished as Messi again produced the unimaginable, scoring his second free-kick for his third goal with his fourth shot on target of the night. Goal number 612. Sergio Busquets rounded off a strong performance with a fine pile driver into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, making it seven goals in 355 appearances for the Spanish veteran.
Key Talking Point
With Barcelona not exactly setting La Liga alight, Valverde had to be cautious with how he approached Saturday’s fixture. Celta Vigo are a side with the third-best defensive record away from home, conceding only seven goals prior to this game, and certainly have their strengths in attack.
From the off it was apparent that the formation needed tinkering and, to his credit, the Barca manager did just that – sacrificing Nelson Semedo in place of Sergio Busquets to add stability in the midfield.
It was a necessary change that relinquished some attacking threat in place of defensive solidity, and Valverde will hope that his tactics will halt the guillotine for at least another week.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (6), Semedo (5), Pique (6), Umtiti (6), Junior Firpo (7); S. Roberto (7), Arthur (8), De Jong (8); Fati (6), Griezmann (6), Messi (10*).
Substitutes: Busquets (7), Dembélé (7), Suarez (N/A).
STAR PLAYER – Saturday night was another edition of the Lionel Messi show.
The diminutive winger-come-striker-come-midfielder was the focal creative outlet for the hosts and illustrated just why he is considered one of football’s best ever.
Lionel Messi, the greatest to ever do it. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
— Carlitos (@CharlieAdeyX) November 9, 2019
Slick passing, exceptional movement, breathtaking dribbling and clinical finishing. Messi displayed all of the characteristics that are now synonymous with Barca’s living legend – he was unplayable on the day, scoring two free-kicks and a penalty to boot.
Starting XI: Rubén (4); Malo (5), Aidoo (5), Araujo (5); Olaza (6), Lobotka (6), Beltrán (5), Cheikh (7), Juncá (5); Sisto (6), Aspas (6).
Substitutes: Méndez (5), D. Suárez (N/A), Fernández (N/A).
Following Saturday’s win, Barcelona head to Estadio Cartagonova to face FC Cartagena in a charity club friendly to raise money for the victims of severe flooding in the Muricia region of eastern Spain.
After the international break, the Catalan giants take a trip to Estadio Municipal de Butarque to face bottom of the league Leganés, before a crucial Champions League group stage tie against Borussia Dortmund.
Celta Vigo will have to pick themselves up as they travel to El Madrigal to face Villarreal before hosting Real Valladolid at Abanca Balaídos at the end of November.