Lionel Messi: Match-by-Match Guide to His 2013 Start
After his sensational finish to the calendar year 2012, Lionel Messi had us all asking one question: Can he do it again? Will the little Argentine keep getting better?
It's too soon to tell how the year will shake out, but with 10 goals already in nine matches for Barcelona, he certainly has the potential to make it another record-breaking year.
Here's a match-by-match guide to Messi's performances so far this calendar year.
Home vs. Espanyol, January 6
Messi's only goal in this 4-0 route came from the spot, but his energetic play catapulted the Blaugrana to a lopsided victory. His key passes helped set up Xavi's opener and Pedro's goal that followed soon after. Playing slightly deeper, Messi was directing traffic and leading Barcelona's attack throughout the match, and they could have added several second half-goals but for some dubious offside officiating.
Away at Malaga, January 13
Again, Messi's goal wasn't necessarily his finest, but his contribution to Barcelona's attack went far beyond it. After picking up Camacho's woeful backpass early in the match, Messi neatly provided the finish to give Barcelona the lead. He also played a marvelous chipped through pass to Fabregas for his goal, and set up Thiago's third with a neat and tidy return wall pass.
Home vs. Malaga, Copa del Rey, January 16
After Thiago gifted Malaga the lead, losing possession to Iturra just outside his own penalty area, Messi found the crucial equalizer in similar vein, wresting the ball from Weligton deep in the right-hand channel before coolly finishing. Forced a great save from Kameni and could have put the match out of reach for the visitors before they came storming back with 10 men late on.
Away at Sociedad, January 19
Messi played a solid match, but was powerless to prevent the points from slipping away after Pique's dismissal midway through the second half. La Pulga was clinical with the opening goal after Iniesta's pass was left to run through to him by Fabregas.
Return Leg at Malaga, January 24
Messi wasn't his best in this exciting Cup tie. He missed a clever scoop, a miss that led directly to Malaga's second equalizer. He found his feet increasingly late on in the game and scored a fine header to put the tie out of Malaga's reach.
Home vs. Osasuna, January 27
It was the Lionel Messi goal-scoring show at the Camp Nou in this league encounter with Osasuna. Messi's opener required the most delicate control on the pass from Xavi, as he drew the ball perfectly between two defenders en route to goal. The Blaugrana were lucky to see Arribas sent off in the first half, but nothing was stopping Messi from there. After scoring from the spot, he added two well-taken goals in the second half to seal the victory.
Away at Madrid, Copa del Rey, January 27
Though Madrid limited his attempts on goal, Messi was a constant threat with his dribbles and passing. Probably would have had a goal but for some poor officiating, and set up Fabregas for Barcelona's only tally on the night.
Away at Valencia, February 3
Barcelona and Messi couldn't quite find their way against a feisty Valencia defense, and their only goal came from La Pulga's first half penalty. Not the best result for the Blaugrana, and not surprisingly, not Messi's finest outing.
Home vs. Getafe, February 10
King Leo was back and Barcelona were firing on all cylinders for Sunday's midday league match. Messi scored Barcelona's second but was again directing traffic in attack along with the incomparable Iniesta. He set up Tello's fourth and drove into the penalty area before the ball bobbled to Iniesta for Barca's fifth. Messi and Barcelona looked back to their terrifying best.
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