Getafe vs. Barcelona: 6 Talking Points from Blaugrana's Big Win
Andres Iniesta injured—no big deal. Alexis Sanchez and Jordi Alba join him on the injury table—that's OK. Dani Alves and Lionel Messi start the game on the bench—that's fine too.
After beating Getafe 4-1 despite so many signs pointing toward an upset, Barcelona have become the best team in La Liga.
Call me stubborn, but before building an eight-point gap in Spain, Real Madrid were still the top team in the league. They are reigning champs and the title chase still has to go through them.
But Barcelona have now proven that they have depth, they can take a little pressure off of Lionel Messi, and they can overcome some serious defensive weaknesses against most La Liga teams. Having eight points on their rivals allows them to lose a few points against the top teams in Spain without risking the title.
So how did this happen? What made this match so important in the title race? Which players and decisions proved to be so impactful on Blaugrana's 2012-2013 campaign?
Those are the questions this column will answer. Just as important as these questions is this one: Was the defining moment of the night the one that will cost Barcelona trophies?
The title is nowhere near being decided, but after putting enormous pressure on Real Madrid by beating El Geta, Barça have now put themselves in control of the league.
Read on to see six major talking points from Barcelona's 4-1 victory over Getafe.
Tito Vilanova Knows What He's Doing
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After Barcelona lost the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa to Real Madrid, fickle Cules who were singing his praises the week before had already started turning their backs on him.
Plenty of short-sighted fans had already labeled him a failure and said that this match proved he was incapable of taking Barça to glory. "He is no Guardiola," they said.
Well, Tito silenced some critics against Getafe.
La Blaugrana started the match in Madrid with Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Alexis Sanchez all out with injury.
Not only did the new manager know how to replace these injured stars, he went one step further and rested a few others who were away on international duty the week before.
Vilanova elected not to start Dani Alves or Lionel Messi with Martin Montoya and Cesc Fabregas taking their spots instead.
Beyond the starters, the young boss used his subs perfectly.
Bringing Javier Mascherano on for an injured Carles Puyol was a no-brainer, but the way he handled the rest were not.
I'll explain the brilliance of those moves later on, though. The point is that Barcelona fans should be a little more patient with their new coach.
A call to Cules
It already looks like some fans will pin every bad thing that happens with this squad on Vilanova, but will credit every great move to Guardiola.
Let's be more fair and see what he can do over a whole season, rather than making premature judgements on the man's abilities based off of a few matches or even a few decisions.
Thiago Is Set for a Big Year
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When the starting XI was announced for Barcelona, many fans surely had some concerns.
Not only did Messi and Alves join the list of injured players who were absent, Thiago was getting his first start of the season despite only being back in training for just over a week.
Once again, Tito Vilanova proved that he knows his squad.
After watching him practice and train all week, Vilanova deemed Thiago fit to start. The result and impact were very positive. The youngster was very influential and was really the best attacking threat before the introduction of Messi.
Thiago had the highest pass-completion percentage on the team—an unbelievable 97 percent—even beating the legendary Xavi in that department.
Vilanova proves his worth again
It was a wise move take Thiago off after just an hour of play. Even though he was arguably the best player over the first 60 minutes, Barça's attack was almost anemic and a change was needed.
That change was Messi, and bringing him on for the last 30 minutes of play obviously paid dividends.
Thiago is only just getting back into rhythm and will be needed later in the season; so, Vilanova's use of the young midfielder was perfect.
Speaking to the press after the match, Sergio Busquets had the following to say about Thiago:
"He’s a very important player and we’ve missed him. It’s obvious that he brings a lot to the team and that’s he’s got power and quality. He’s very young and he’ll be very important.”
David Villa Is Almost Ready to Be Unleashed
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Three appearances, 45 total minutes, three goals. Barcelona will take that from David Villa any day of the week.
I hate to keep praising Tito Vilanova, but he deserves it. Like I said, he used all of his subs perfectly.
Through the first hour of play, Barça's attack was far from great. The team lacked bite and was not really threatening.
The front five were getting tons of chances and taking lots of shots, but as has been typical when Messi is not scoring—there was no finishing touch. Tello was especially disappointing as he found loads of space, but had no finishing touch.
While all that changed when Messi came on, the attack took on a new face the moment David Villa stepped on the pitch.
Just what Barcelona needed
Getafe's defense was sent spinning in the 76th minute. Pedro had just earned a penalty for Messi to complete and they were on the verge of losing the match.
Los Azulones did an admirable job of stopping the trio of Fabregas, Tello and Pedro, but struggled when Messi added a fourth option.
With Spain's greatest striker on, La Blaugrana were simply unplayable. There was just too much firepower for El Geta to handle.
It's almost time
El Guaje has looked impressive each time he's played so far this season, and it is only a matter of time before he retakes his starting role.
I understand Vilanova's desire to slowly reintegrate him into the team, but the impact Villa has on the team is huge.
Barça have been desperate to have another top-class scoring threat, and it seems like Villa is that guy. He is making it very hard for Tito to leave him off the starting XI every week.
There Is No Debate Right Now
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I have long suspected that Tito Vilanova is a regular reader of Bleacher Report, but I didn't expect him to take my suggestions about Messi to heart so quickly. I won't take credit, though. ;-)
Vilanova obviously knows how to use his superstar better than I do and maybe even better than Pep Guardiola did.
The new boss gave Messi a much-needed break and the effect was great. Messi came on rested and ready to abuse a tired Getafe defense. Messi scored a brace in just four minutes and almost had a hat trick despite playing just 30 minutes.
The proof is in the pudding
This is not the first time we've seen how giving the Argentinian a rest can bring him back even stronger.
Last season La Pulga was suspended for the first time in his career when he amassed five yellow cards. He was forced to miss the next match against Sporting Gijon back in March.
On Wednesday of that next week, Barcelona had to play Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, which would have been Messi's third match in just eight days.
Instead of fielding a tired No. 10, Pep Guardiola put a well-rested Lionel Messi who was raring to get back on the pitch.
The result? The Argentinian ran wild against the Germans and scored five goals in a 7-1 shelling of the Germans.
Best player in the world
Looking at the bigger picture, Messi is back to being the top player in football to almost every fan.
After his two goals in four minutes against Getafe, La Pulga has now scored six goals in just four league matches.
On the other end, Ronaldo has played only one solid match out of four.
There is still plenty of time to catch up, but right now, when comparing Lionel Messi to Ronaldo or anyone else, there is just no denying that Messi is the best player in football.
The Loss of Puyol Can't Be Overstated
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This was a big win—make no mistake.
Unfortunately for Cules, the most season-defining moment of the night came when Carles Puyol was rolling around on the ground after twisting his knee.
As soon as El Capitan went down, fans everywhere started thinking the worst.
Puyol had just gotten back on the pitch after offseason surgery. He still had not fully recovered. At 34 years old, this looked like it could be the end of the Spanish legend's career.
Thankfully, those fears were quickly laid to rest when Tarzan ran back onto the pitch after a few minutes of care on the touchline, but it proved to be only temporary comfort. The Spanish legend went down again, unable to continue and has now been ruled out for four to six weeks.
Of course, chances are it will be much longer than that.
Even if Puyol is ready to start training again in a month, it will be a lot longer before he is actually ready to play a full match.
Why it matters
Every time Puyol steps on the pitch, Barcelona's defense is better. When healthy, he is still a top center-back.
He has declined a bit over the last two seasons, but Barça's No.5 is still the best defender on the team. The problem is not talent, it is keeping him on the pitch. Now that he is done for what will likely be almost two months, the central defense will suffer.
There is no more time to wait, no more excuses to be made. Gerard Pique has to step up and become the leader of Barça's back line.
Fans all want to bring in a new, elite center-back, but it just won't happen right now.
No use debating who would be the better signing or who can play in the middle. The team is set; so now the current players have to get better. Period.
La Liga Is Nowhere Near Decided
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Four wins in four games. Great start for Barcelona, but not a huge deal—at least it shouldn't be.
While having 12 points and a two-point lead over Malaga will please Tito Vilanova, what will really make him and Cules happy is knowing that an eight-point lead over archrivals Real Madrid has now been built.
This early in the season, an eight-point gap does not mean the season is over—not by a long shot. A team of Real Madrid's caliber is certainly capable of making up the gap before season's end.
As much as Barça fans will hope the team keeps this form up, it is almost guaranteed that a fair few points will be dropped this term.
Last season Messi and Co. almost closed a 12-point gap in the second half alone; so to think the league has already been decided is, in short, foolish.
That is not to say eight points is not significant. In a league where last season's winner lost just two games all term, eight points is an enormous deficit to overcome.
Barcelona is in the driver's seat—no question about that. But Tito Vilanova has to be careful not to get complacent. He needs to keep the team hungry and desperate to get the full three points every single week.
If Barça can continue to get results even when they aren't playing their best football, they could retake the league title after just one season without it.