Messi Closes in on Immortality: 3 Observations from Barca's Win

Xoel Cardenas@@XoelCardenasContributor IIIDecember 2, 2012

Messi Closes in on Immortality: 3 Observations from Barca's Win

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    Lionel Messi moved to within one goal of Gerd Müller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year as Messi led FC Barcelona to a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

    The first chance for Tito Vilanova’s men came in the 13th minute as Andres Iniesta dribbled his way through two defenders at the top left side of the box, but Iniesta’s shot was saved by Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.

    Messi found Iniesta in the 22nd minute, but good defending by Bilbao kept the ball out. A corner kick came of it, which was nearly put in by Cesc Fabregas as Iraizoz made the save; however, the rebound landed at the feet of Gerard Pique for the opening goal of the night.

    Just two minutes later, Messi got his goal as Xavi found him open in the middle of the pitch. Messi lobbed it over Iraizoz and it was deflected in by Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta. What looked like an own goal at first glance was in fact awarded to Messi by the referee.

    Fabregas had a great chance to add in the third goal a few minutes later as Messi found a wide-open Cesc, whose shot was nicely blocked by Iraizoz. Jordi Alba made a great run in the 43rd minute as “the flying squirrel” went inside the box and passed the ball to Iniesta, whose shot went wide right.

    Just before the halftime whistle, Barça made it 3-0 as Messi found Fabregas in the half-moon at the top of the box. Fabregas then passed it to a streaking Adriano on the right side, and the Brazilian slammed in his fifth goal of the La Liga season.

    In the second half, Messi nearly got his second goal in the 54th minute as his shot was on target, but stopped by Iraizoz. Messi looked like he was fouled inside the box less than a minute later, but no foul was called.

    In the 57th minute, Barcelona made it 4-0 as Iniesta found Fabregas, who was wide open and slotted in the goal. Bilbao looked horrible as they continued to leave Barça players wide open all game long.

    Bilbao had their first real chance at goal in the 61st minute as Fernando Llorente’s shot skied high.

    In the 66th minute, Adriano allowed Ibai Gomez to stay onside and beat Victor Valdes for Bilbao's lone goal of the night.

    Messi went to within one goal from equalizing Müller’s record as he grabbed his brace on the night in the 70th minute. Messi picked up the loose ball inside the box and slammed it to the top right of the net for his brace.

    In the final minute of the game, Pique came up forward and tried to feed Messi for the hat trick, but Leo’s header went over the crossbar.

    Final: FC Barcelona 5 – 1 Athletic Bilbao

    With Atletico Madrid's loss to Real Madrid in the Madrid Derby, Barcelona are now six points ahead of Atletico and still remain 11 points ahead of Jose Mourinho's men in La Liga.

    This 2012-13 FC Barcelona squad have now set the record for the best starting Liga history, beating the record held by the 1961-62 Real Madrid team.

    Forty out of 42 points. Thirteen wins. One draw.

    What a fantastic job Tito Vilanova has done. Many didn’t think he could have the same success Pep Guardiola had, but Vilanova has brought a new, more relaxed culture to this squad.

    Grande Tito!

    We are all witnessing the greatest team in Liga history!

    Let’s look at the three observations "From The Mind of Xoel" from this game, including a look at Messi’s historic numbers.

Adriano: The Ultimate Utility Man

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    Adriano Corriea scored his fifth goal in La Liga this season as he made the great run and—with a lovely pass from Cesc Fabregas—slammed in the third Barça goal of the night.

    Other than one mistake, Adriano had a solid game.

    Its players like Adriano that most fans—even Barça fans—tend to underappreciate: the utility player.

    Think about it: How many positions has Adriano played this season? He’s been a LB, RB, CB, LM at times and he comes up like a forward plenty of times—like in the goal he scored in the Bilbao game.

    Did you know: Adriano has more goals (five) than Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema this Liga season?

    That’s just sad, Madridistas. Benzema is supposed to be one of the best strikers in the world. Adriano is a defender.

    Then again, Adriano is not really a defender—he’s a “Mr. Everything.”

    Yes, Adriano tends to get injured frequently, but part of that is that he hustles and is not afraid of getting physical in a game.

    Adriano is one of Barcelona’s unsung heroes. I hope all Culés appreciate everything Adriano does for this team.

    Adriano Corriea: the ultimate utility footballer in La Liga.

Cesc Fabregas: Shining Under Tito Vilanova

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    Remember last season when many were questioning whether or not Cesc Fabregas was worth the £35 million that Barcelona spent on the former Arsenal captain?

    Well, it’s now obvious it was a terrific purchase.

    Sorry, Gooners.

    Fabregas is having a terrific Liga season, as he is leading La Liga in assists with nine. Barcelona actually has the top four assist leaders in La Liga (Fabregas, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro).

    Fabregas’ chemistry with Lionel Messi has been simply great to see this season. This game against Bilbao showed that it works both ways as Messi found Fabregas everal times for shots at goal.

    Fabregas grabbed Barcelona’s fourth goal against Bilbao thanks to a great pass from Andres Iniesta. Fabregas now has five goals this season in La Liga, and will certainly end up with more goals this season than last season (nine goals in 2011-12).

    As a proud Culé, I’m glad to see Fabregas look so comfortable. Last season, it looked like he did not fit in Pep Guardiola’s system. Now under Tito Vilanova, Fabregas has been given more playing time and more freedom to play the way he feels more comfortable.

    At the postgame press conference, Vilanova expressed his happiness in Fabregas' improvement this season.

    "Cesc played a spectacular game. He got stronger physically. He runs 12 kilometers almost every game," Vilanova said.

    With Thiago Alcantara now healthy as well as Jonathan Dos Santos starting to get time on the pitch, don’t worry about Fabregas or the other starting midfielders getting burnt out anytime soon. Vilanova has a good rotation with the mids.

    This season, we finally are seen the Fabregas all Culés were hoping to get when he came back home. Part of the credit has to go to Vilanova. Cesc is a critical part of the Barcelona offense, and his chemistry with his teammates and his timing is spot on.

    Grande Cesc!  

Cherish Every Moment You Watch Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona

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    With his two goals on the night, Lionel Messi is now just one goal away from tying Gerd Müller’s record for the most goals in a calendar year.

    Set the DVR for the rest of FC Barcelona’s games this calendar year.

    With Barcelona already having clinched their group in their UEFA Champions League campaign, Tito Vilanova may decide to rest Messi this Wednesday as Barcelona take on Benfica. 

    But there's no other place that Messi should tie and/or break Müller’s record than at the Camp Nou.

    Play him in the Benfica game, Tito!

    Here are the rest of Messi's numbers:

    Lionel Messi is the first Barcelona player ever to score 21-plus goals in the first 14 Liga games.

    Messi has now scored 28 goals for Barcelona in 21 official matches (all competitions) this season.

    Messi has set a new personal record by scoring at least two goals in five successive official matches for Barcelona.

    Messi has now grabbed 12 braces this season for FC Barcelona. 11 times with two goals and one time with three goals.

    Messi since the birth of his son, Thiago: 11 goals in 720 minutes for Barcelona and Argentina (one goal every 65 minutes).

    With 21 league goals, Lionel Messi has now outscored 16 of the 19 teams in La Liga this season.

    Messi has equaled Müller's record of most club goals (72 goals, Bayern Munich, 1972) in a calendar year.

    And as previously mentioned, Messi is just one away from tying and two away from breaking the legend Müller’s record of 85 goals in one calendar year.

    It’s not a matter of if he’ll break the record, it’s a matter of what will be the new record that Messi will set. Eighty-seven? Ninety? Who knows?

    But one thing I do know is that we are all witnessing the greatest player of all time, having the greatest individual year of all time, on the greatest Liga team of all time.

    We are all truly blessed to be alive in the Lionel Messi era, and FC Barcelona's current Golden Era.

    ¡Grande Messi!

    ¡Histórico Messi!

    ¡Histórico FC Barcelona!


    O le le,

    O la la,

    ser del Barça és

    el millor que hi ha

    Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on the net, period.


    Don't forget to check out my other columns:

    FC Barcelona: The All Time Best XI

    Barcelona Wins, Real Madrid Loses, Is La Liga Done?