Neymar, Messi, Bale and Ronaldo Watch: Mixed Performances but Plenty of Goals
In the week following the Clasico, both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been in action on two occasions, with the Catalans recording victories at home to Celta Vigo and away to Espanyol, while Madrid lost away to Sevilla but won at home to Rayo Vallecano.
It has been a week of mixed fortunes for the most prominent players of the two teams, even though Neymar, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have all scored at least once over the last seven days.
Here we analyse how the last week has gone for the stars of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
Neymar was branded “Barca’s problem,” by Johan Cruyff, as per AS earlier this week. “You can’t sign sign a 21-year-old player and pay him a higher wage than players who have won everything,” the former Barcelona player and coach told assembled media in Kuala Lumpur.
On the pitch, Neymar scored twice in Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo in midweek, tapping in an Alexis Sanchez cross to open the scoring and then racing clear of the defence to score the third, again from a Sanchez pass.
The Brazilian was, however, less influential in the 1-0 win away to Espanyol on Saturday, skying a superb early chance and generally struggling to make an impression on the home defence. He was dispossessed on three occasions and was also guilty of giving up three turnovers.
He was, though, involved in the controversial match-winning moment, controlling a pass into the area with his arm, which then bounced onto the hand of Espanyol defender Javi Lopez. The referee, Clos Gomez, pointed to the spot and Lionel Messi converted the resulting penalty.
After his match-winning hat-trick in last weekend’s Clasico, it was a rare week with no new records for Lionel Messi, but he did score in both of Barcelona’s victories, continuing his excellent 2014 to date.
Messi in 2014 for Barcelona: - 20 competitive games - 22 goals - 8 assists— MESSISTATS (@MessiStats) March 29, 2014
He scored the second goal in the 3-0 win over Celta Vigo and led the charge against Espanyol on Saturday, with eight shots, six successful dribbles and two key passes in addition to the successful conversion from the penalty spot that gave Barca all three points.
Messi is currently in contract talks with the club, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu this week stating, as per COPE (h/t FourFourTwo), that “his current contract will not be his last. We want him to be the highest-paid player in the world.”
Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick in a lively first half performance against Sevilla on Wednesday, but he faded after the break as Carlos Bacca's winner saw Madrid leave Andalusia pointless.
Ronaldo had grown increasingly frustrated as the second half wore on and took his anger out on teammate Gareth Bale, launching into a highly demonstrative sulk when the Welshman, rather than him, was afforded responsibility for a late free-kick.
Bale and Ronaldo performed better in tandem on Saturday night during Madrid’s 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. The pair combined superbly for the first goal, scored by Ronaldo, who then turned provider for the second, teeing up Daniel Carvajal to finish.
Ronaldo picked up a knock to his knee following a first-half challenge on Jose Castro and was quieter in the second half, but he still had a hand in the third goal, releasing Angel Di Maria to cross for Bale to tap in at the far post.
Gareth Bale was very quiet in last weekend’s Clasico and again failed to impress in Madrid’s defeat to Sevilla on Wednesday. His shooting was particularly poor, with just one of his six efforts, all from outside the area, troubling Beto in the Sevilla goal.
He even received the blame for Sevilla’s winning goal as he was off the pitch, changing his boots, at the time, temporarily reducing Madrid to 10 men.
Bale will, then, have been glad to get back to winning ways on Saturday, performing well in Madrid’s 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabeu.
He provided the assist for the opening goal, scored by Cristiano Ronaldo and scored twice himself, tapping in from Angel Di Maria’s low cross for his first and then demonstrating his pace and power to drive clear from inside his own half before finishing low into the corner of the net for his second.
Bale did produce one hapless moment when he tripped over his feet after being released through the centre by Di Maria but overall it was a much improved performance from the Welshman and one he will hope to replicate when Madrid host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.