Lionel Messi's Latest Record Should Act as Major Warning to Manchester City

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi of Argentina, gestures during their Spanish Copa del Rey semifinal second leg soccer match against Real Sociedad, at Anoeta stadium, in San Sebastian northern Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

It looks as though Lionel Messi may be back to his brilliant best after equalling yet another record on Wednesday night, a worrying sign for Manchester City ahead of next week’s Champions League ties.

His goal set up a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad to put the Catalan giants through 3-1 on aggregate in the Copa del Rey to face Real Madrid in the final.

And as Pete Jenson reports in the Daily Mail, the goal took him level with Telmo Zarra on 335 goals. No player in history has scored more goals for a Spanish club.

Not only was it a record-equalling strike, it was quite special.

Gifted the ball in the centre circle, he was surrounded by five opposition defenders yet somehow contrived to carry it to the edge of the penalty area and squeeze it past goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai. 

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

It was the kind of goal Messi scores for fun when he is on form. However, form has been eluding the Argentine this season, a campaign which has been dogged by injuries and criticism of his football.

Indeed Barca coach Gerardo Martino was recently reported by BBC Sport saying the four-time world footballer of the year had been affected by negative criticism:

"Those that are negative do not realise they are affecting his pride," Martino said. "When you do that to the best player in the world, this is what happens."

Since the start of 2014, Messi has looked to be on the way back to form, as this OptaJose stat confirms:

This will be a concern for Manuel Pellegrini and his Manchester City side who host Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

It is Manchester City's first appearance in the Champions League last 16 and will be the first time the two sides have faced each other in European competition.  

When the draw was made back in December, Messi was out injured. As the match draws closer he has now scored three goals in his last two matches, including a brace at the weekend in La Liga against Sevilla that saw Barcelona return to the top of the table. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City holds off a challenge from Sean Murray of Watford during the FA Cup Fourth Round match sponsored by Budweiser between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad Stadium on January 25, 2014 in
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

More ominous news, Wednesday's game saw Barcelona have 70 percent of the possession and it was only the second time all season that Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi had all started.

Conversely, Manchester City have had their travails of late, failing to score in consecutive Premier League games—for the first time since January 2012—against Chelsea and Norwich. 

It may well be only a momentary dip in form, but it is not ideal as City attempt to make it through to the quarterfinals of Europe's premier competition. They may also be without Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho for the first leg. 

Back in December, on the announcement of the draw, BBC Sport's Andy West wrote that Barca's fans would approach February's tie with respect bordering on fear.

On recent form that may no longer be true and with Messi scoring again, City have been warned.