Analyzing Lionel Messi's Record-Breaking 18-Game La Liga Scoring Streak

Will TideySenior Manager, GlobalMarch 21, 2013

Analyzing Lionel Messi's Record-Breaking 18-Game La Liga Scoring Streak

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    Lionel Messi can't do anything without breaking a record these days. His latest feat is a run of 18 consecutive goal-scoring La Liga matches, dating back to Barcelona's win at Mallorca in November 2012.

    According to Barcelona officials (as per BBC Sport), Messi has overtaken the mark of 16 straight scoring games in a league season set by Polish striker Teodor Peterek in the 1937-38 season.

    The reigning four-time Ballon d'Or winner (also a record), Messi topped Gerd Muller's haul of 85 goals in a calendar year in 2012. For more of his historic feats, see this list by B/R's Tre Atkinson.

    This article break downs his remarkable run in La Liga. If Messi keeps scoring, I'll keep updating it.

1. Mallorca (a)

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    Messi's record-breaking run began at Mallorca, and with a large slice of luck.

    After Xavi's delightful free kick had put Barca ahead, Messi's tame low shot from the edge of the box was generously allowed by Mallorca goalkeeper Dudu Aouate. 

    Mallorca were threatening a comeback when Messi struck his second, collecting Alexis Sanchez's chest down to crash a shot into the top left corner.

    Watch the highlights here.

    KEY—"Messi minutes" are those in which he scored, as per ESPNFC. All stats are provided by Squawka.com. The Squawka performance is defined as follows by the stats provider:

    The Squawka Player Performance Score is a comprehensive algorithm built on the back of extensive analysis of over 400 Premier League matches. It awards points for every player for their every touch of the ball. It analyses whether the action was defensive, attacking or possessional and then applies further adjustments based on the player’s squad position and the area of the pitch in which the action happened.

    See here for the full explanation.

2. Real Zaragoza (h)

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    Messi's first against Zaragoza was achieved with the help of Jordi Alba, who received his initial pass and then played Messi back in on the edge of the area. From there, Messi skipped a challenge and slid a neat finish into the corner.

    His second was a curled shot from outside the area on 60 minutes, by which time he'd also laid on an assist for Alex Song—the result of a slaloming run inside the box.

    Watch the highlights here.

3. Levante (a)

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    Both sides had chances in the first half of this one, but we had to wait until 47 minutes for a breakthrough, when a trademark through-ball from Andres Iniesta released Messi. He took it in his stride and calmly chipped a finish over Gustavo Munua to put Barca ahead.

    Messi's second arrived soon after, with Iniesta once again playing provider. The Spanish international made it to the touchline before cutting a sharp ball back for Messi to strike home from close range.

    Iniesta would later grab a goal for himself and then set up Cesc Fabregas perfectly for Barca's fourth. Two for Messi, but Iniesta was the star of this match.

    Watch the highlights here.

4. Athletic Bilbao (h)

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    Xavi played provider for Messi's first against Bilbao, which was taken in trademark fashion, with a dink over the onrushing goalkeeper.

    His second resulted from a melee inside the Bilbao box on 70 minutes. The ball eventually fell to Messi's unfavored right foot, which he deployed to send an inch-perfect shot into the top corner.

    By now he had reached 84 goals for the calendar year, one shy of the record held by Gerd Muller.

    Watch the highlights here.

5. Real Betis (a)

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    And there went Muller's scoring record.

    Messi drew level with the German in scintillating fashion, driving across from right to left before dragging a shot back into the opposite corner.

    His second was created with a back-heel from Andres Iniesta, inviting Messi to sweep a shot into exactly the same spot and overtake Muller's mark in the process.

    Watch Messi's record-breaking strike here.

6. Atletico Madrid (h)

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    Radamel Falcao put Atletico ahead at Camp Nou, but soon enough, order had been restored through goals from Adriano and Sergio Busquets.

    Messi stretched Barca's lead with a placed finish from the edge of the box on 57 minutes. On his second, he owed everything to his awareness, as he capitalised on a defensive slip to burst into the Atletico area and dig out a chip over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

    Watch the highlights here.

7. Valladolid (a)

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    Just the one for Messi against Valladolid, in a game that saw Jordi Roura take over coaching duties after it was announced Tito Vilanova had suffered a relapse of his throat cancer.

    Barca players paid tribute to Vilanova by wearing his face on T-shirts in the warmup, and Messi's fine goal was part of their dedication to him on the field.

    Xavi's back-heel set Messi in motion, with the Argentine taking his familiar route from right to left, keeping the ball tight to his instep before picking his spot in the bottom corner.

    Watch highlights here.

8. Espanyol (h)

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    Messi's first goal of 2013 came from the penalty spot, after Cesc Fabregas was brought down by Espanyol goalkeeper Francisco Casilla.

    If not for Pedro's deflection he would also have been able to claim Barca's second at Camp Nou. And then there was a free kick that rattled off the bar.

    Watch the highlights here.

9. Malaga (a)

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    Messi traveled to Malaga after picking up his fourth successive Ballon d'Or title, and duly opened the scoring on 27 minutes.

    Nacho Camacho's mistake invited Messi through on goal. Goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero stood in his way, but Messi's trickery prevailed and left Caballero sprawling on the ground to pass into an empty net.

    He wouldn't add to his individual tally, but Messi did go on to set up Barca's other two goals.

    Watch the highlights here.

10. Real Sociedad (a)

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    Things started oh so predictably in this one, with Messi stroking a low shot into the corner to culminate a neat Barca passing sequence on seven minutes.

    But after Pedro got a second, Real Sociedad battled back to win 3-2 and pull off one of the upsets of the season in Spain.

    Watch the highlights here.

11. Osasuna (h)

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    This was a Messi masterclass.

    His first was created by Xavi and finished with a dip of his shoulder to round the goalkeeper. His second was thumped home from the penalty spot. His hat-trick goal came after a lovely one-two with David Villa. His fourth was a poacher's near-post finish after good work from Adriano on Barca's left.

    Osasuna could merely watch on in awe as Messi ripped them to shreds. He scored four and he could very easily have had more.

    Watch the highlights here.

12. Valencia (a)

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    Valencia's Ever Banega struck to put his team ahead in this one, but Barca were level six minutes later, when Messi smashed a penalty into the top left after Pedro was fouled.

    That's how things stayed and it was Barca who emerged most happy with the point, after goalkeeper Victor Valdes had contributed some fine saves.

    Watch the highlights here.

13. Getafe (h)

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    Messi played his part in Barca's 6-1 romp against Getafe, but in truth he should have scored more than the solitary goal he contributed. He had plenty of chances.

    That said, his sliding finish into the bottom corner was evidence of his ability to improvise. He also added an assist in what was a comfortable victory.

    Watch the highlights here.

14. Granada (a)

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    Granada took a shocking lead in this one, but it wasn't long before Messi restored natural order with a brace.

    His first was a predatory finish from close range; his second a wonderful curling free kick from distance. Once again Messi's all-round talent was to the fore.

    Watch the highlights here.

15. Sevilla (h)

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    Barca entered this one reeling from their 2-0 Champions League loss to AC Milan at the San Siro.

    They fell behind to Alberto Botía's goal just before halftime, but David Villa's equaliser after the break was swiftly followed by a winner from Messi.

    Messi combined with Cristian Tello, before dispatching a shot low into his favoured bottom right.

    Watch the highlights here.

16. Real Madrid (a)

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    Barca had been beaten 3-1 at home by great rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey just a week before this one. They would fall again at the Bernabeu, with goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos inflicting a 2-1 defeat.

    Messi still managed to keep his scoring run going, cutting inside Ramos to drive a low shot near post past the keeper and bring Barca level early on. 

    Watch the highlights here.

17. Deportivo La Coruna (h)

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    With Barca resting a handful of their best players against Deportivo, Messi was given just under 30 minutes to keep his run going after coming on as a substitute.

    It came down to the last few minutes, but when the goal arrived it was a thing of beauty. Messi drove from left to right, exchanged passes with Alexis Sanchez and then lofted a sublime chip over the goalkeeper.

    Watch the highlights here.

18. Rayo Vallecano (h)

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    Barca went into their most recent league match buoyed by their 4-0 Champions League win against AC Milan, which sent them through to the quarterfinals.

    Messi had inspired that success and he'd play a big role against Rayo Vallecano—scoring twice and assisting on another scored by David Villa.

    Messi's first was an instinctive turn and shot; his second was a measured finish after being sent away by Villa's pass. 

    Watch the highlights here.

Breaking Down the Numbers

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    The numbers above show Messi has scored a remarkable 29 goals in his last 18 Liga matches—at an average of just over 1.6 goals per game.

    His goals in that period have been spread fairly even through games, though he has been more prolific during the middle section of matches than at either end.

    If we chart his Squawka score over the 18-game run, Messi's peak of 227 unsurprisingly coincides with his four-goal destruction of Osasuna.

    I'll continue to update this article if Messi's streak stretches further into the season.