Blog by: Srihari
It seems as though, even after stumping up an insane amount of cash to lure Neymar away from Brazil to Barcelona, the club still doesn’t look the same without their main man, Lionel Messi.
Although they beat Malaga 1-0 without their injured talisman, they made heavy weather of what should have been a relatively easy game. It needed a long-range strike from Adriano, on the stroke of half-time to maintain a perfect record through the first two weekends.
Barcelona created quite a few chances, but they seemed to lack the spark that is so often provided by Messi. As a result, they found it very difficult to break down a resolute Malaga side. They controlled the majority of the possession and managed to push Bernd Schuster’s team deep into their own area, but it was not until Adriano scored that they were able to do anything with their possession.
And while Cesc Fabregas has stated that “the team does not depend on Messi and Neymar,” the ineluctable fact is that Barcelona don’t look the same, without their talented talisman leading the charge. The arrival of Neymar was set to ease the burden on Messi, but it seems as if the coach isn’t too confident about the Brazilian’s fitness to let him start.
For the third straight game, Neymar came on as a substitute and set the stage alight with some eye-catching dribbles, electrifying pace and a couple of shots that almost doubled the final margin.
After Messi injured himself during Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona came into this match without the Argentinean, and they might yet be without him for the return leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
In his absence, Fabregas was given the ominous task of leading Barcelona’s attack and it didn’t take him long to create havoc in Malaga’s backline. After some quick interplay in the middle of the park, it was his cross that lead to Alexis Sanchez’s point-blank header being saved by Walter Caballero.
A little while after that, just as the half-time whistle seemed on the cards, Adriano surprised the Malaga keeper with a blistering left-footed effort from outside the area that was just curling away from the keeper, who couldn’t do anything to keep it from going in. But his celebrations were short lived as he was injured and was replaced at half-time by Dani Alves.
Whilst they got the goal that their play merited, it was here that Barcelona really missed Messi and his ability to draw players out of position, which usually resulted in either Xavi or Iniesta being freed up.
For all his attributes, Neymar still doesn’t strike fear in the minds of his opponents or provide a psychological boost for his teammates, like Messi does. Whilst his speed and ability to break down defenders one on one will certainly be of use, it will take some time for his teammates to get used to his style of play; more so at Barcelona, as all their play practically revolves around Messi.
And though they possess a team filled with a bunch of highly talented individuals, they are still extremely reliant on Messi. That is precisely the reason why every time Messi has a little bruise and bump, all of Cataluña holds their breath.