BEVERLY HILLS, April 23, (THEWILL) – On Thursday night, when Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona team filed out for the Round 31 match at Camp Nou, they were doing so off the back of their trophy celebration after picking the Copa del Rey at the final whistle of their last match, where they defeated Athletic Club on Saturday at the Estadio Olimpico de Sevilla.
But, they returned to a league tie for their Thursday night fixture at home against Getafe, keen to keep up with the Madrid teams, Atletico and Real, who were starting to create some breathing space between them both and the Catalans. In fact, while Barca was winning the Copa del Rey, Sevilla snuck in and pushed them down to fourth.
It became abundantly obvious that for Barca to keep their lively chances of also fighting for the league title, they had to avoid slipping up any further, especially if they did not want the present eight points gap between them and leaders Atletico, five points from second-placed Real and two points from third-placed Sevilla to increase and further.
It was clear that they could not dare repeat what happened at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez earlier in the season when they lost 1-0 against Getafe.
Good for Barca that Lionel Messi was again in his elements and ready for the challenge the visitors posed. He demonstrated that readiness with his brace that propelled Barcelona to a solid 5-2 win in a seven-goal home thriller.
Koeman’s decision to keep almost every player of the squad that triumphed at the Copa del Rey paid off. There was no Sergino Dest this time around though, as Sergi Roberto was brought in in Dest’s stead at the wings, for the only change to the Barca side.
Of the players who gave a tremendous account of themselves, no one did it from the midfield better than Sergio Busquets. He was a reassuring presence throughout especially with his ball distribution and quick thinking, which both made it a standout performance for Busquets added to his assist. Equally brilliant beside Busquets was the imperial Frenkie de Jong, showing why he is well rated.
However, for the umpteenth match, Messi served up a reminder of just what the game is at its very best with another sublime showing of pace, game control, delivery and goals of which he finished with a double in the first half alone to closeout a half that was witness to own goals from both sides with Getafe’s Sofian Chakla and Clement Lenglet of Barca the guilty parties.
Barca’s captain and talisman, who was the main man in the Copa del Rey trophy-lifting victory simply picked up where he left off with another sparkling performance that give credence to the claim that the 33-year-old was playing like a man reborn recently, like a player happy once again with his game. And, in this form, he is one of the most difficult opponents to come against, which he proved against Getafe on Thursday.
Then, when an opportunity came for Messi to get his hattrick, as the centre referee, Jorge Figueroa awarded Barca a penalty for an infringement on Griezmann, Messi, the team’s standard penalty taker, gave the ball to Griezmann, who buried it past the keeper to get his name on the scoresheet with thanks to the unselfish captain.
It was the Messi the Barca faithful will wish to continue to see for seasons to come at Camp Nou and would wish for the club to give him what he wants so that he can remain and continue to give them the pleasure of ball mastery and ingenuity.
At the moment, Lionel Messi has scored 23 goals in 23 appearances, in all competitions, for Barcelona this year, including four in his last two games. He also is the only player in any of Europe’s big five leagues to score 25 or more league goals in each of the last 12 seasons.