Is Cesc Fabregas the Fall Guy Now That King Messi Has Returned?

Jason PettigroveContributor IJanuary 9, 2014

Will Cesc Fabregas revert to the subs bench now that Lionel Messi is back?
Will Cesc Fabregas revert to the subs bench now that Lionel Messi is back?Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Lionel Messi.

Two words guaranteed to strike fear into the opposing defence. And so it proved yet again in the Copa Del Rey first leg tie against Getafe.

With immaculate timing, Messi's 30-minute cameo performance will surely have piqued the interest of those in the Spanish capital,'s rating of 8.71 even giving him a remarkable man-of-the-match award.

The final touches of proceedings were a typically incisive run and score from the Argentine. It was almost poetic. Yes sir, he's back alright.

Messi's back, and that gives Martino a personnel headache.
Messi's back, and that gives Martino a personnel headache.David Ramos/Getty Images

Barca's much more studious and sensible approach to Messi's injury this time seems to have paid off, and that not only spells bad news for Atletico Madrid, but also for one unlucky team-mate.

Tata Martino faces a difficult decision. In Messi's absence, Barca have played 10 games in all competitions, losing two and winning eight. Those matches have yielded 34 goals for the Blaugrana, with Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez and Neymar all contributing and bang in form.

Cesc Fabregas too has been one of the success stories this season, yet one of the quartet will most likely make way for Barca's returning talisman.

Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were to the fore against Getafe allowing Barca's passing carousel to turn apace, and two goals were handsome return for Cesc's work ethic throughout.

It's perhaps the versatility that Fabregas can bring to proceedings, which hinders him in many respects and gives Martino his biggest headache.

A modern utility player, Fabregas cannot be pigeon-holed to one position yet has filled in with aplomb wherever he has been asked. 

As he showed against Elche in Barca's last La Liga fixture, although he was technically the "false nine", much of his work came from a deeper lying midfield role.

And although far from the traditional centre-forward, seven goals in 15 La Liga appearances is a fantastic return, especially from someone not considered a natural goalscorer.

A goal every two games in the league is a record Europe's top strikers would be proud of.

Should Neymar recover from his illness in time for Saturday's top-of-the-table clash, then you would expect the Brazilian to start on the left side.

An interesting fight should develop on the right between Sanchez and Pedro, and it's hard to imagine that Martino will not start with Messi centrally, bearing in mind his recovery programme was always timed to coincide with the Atleti fixture in mind. 

After a slow start to the season, Iniesta is back to his impish best, and the telepathic relationship he enjoys with Xavi Hernandez is likely to prove the key to the lock against Atletico's more robust midfield of Arda Turan, Tiago et al.

Which would mean Martino, reluctantly, leaving Fabregas on the subs bench.

Hardly the reward that his play deserves.