Ranking Barcelona's Top 4 Players for January 2016
Barcelona's start to the year has been spectacular. Luis Enrique has achieved eight wins and one draw in January, a record unmatched at the club since Pep Guardiola's team managed it in 2009.
The first game of the month did not go well, a frustrating goalless draw with Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat Stadium, and as well as playing them twice more, they also faced Athletic Club three times.
Atletico Madrid and Malaga were the other opponents in a tough month, at least on paper.
Here are the results, and Barcelona's four best players:
Espanyol 0-0 Barcelona (La Liga)
Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol (Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 4-0 Granada (La Liga)
Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 6-0 Athletic Bilbao (La Liga)
Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Barcelona (Copa del Rey)
Malaga 1-2 Barcelona (La Liga)
Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao (Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
4. Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez played an important role for Barcelona in January, most crucially scoring the winner against Atletico Madrid in their final game of the month.
This goal may be what hands Barcelona the La Liga trophy come May, a direct blow struck against a title rival.
The former Liverpool man also scored a hat-trick as Barcelona trounced Athletic Club in the 6-0 Liga victory on January 20.
Suarez was suspended for the second leg of the Copa del Rey clash with Espanyol and for the first leg in Bilbao in the quarter-finals, and the extra rest manifested itself in some explosive displays.
His usually lethal finishing wasn't quite as sharp as it should have been earlier in the month, with the Uruguayan guilty of a couple of big misses in the first two Espanyol games, but he soon corrected that.
Neymar has grown to be incredibly consistent. For a player as talented as the Brazilian to be producing his best so frequently, it is a huge boon for Barcelona.
The forward struck five times in January, spreading those goals out over five games. It could have been more, but injury kept him out of the clash with Malaga and hampered him against Atletico.
However, he still played a crucial part in Lionel Messi's equalier, with a lovely body swerve which unbalanced Atletico's defence, before he played in Jordi Alba to set up the goal.
Neymar's dribbling and tricks also help Messi a lot. Generally, defenders now target the Brazilian for the bulk of their bad tackles, with Messi less picked on.
That said, Filipe Luis made an exception during the Atletico Madrid clash.
2. Lionel Messi
Barcelona's star player dominated his opponents during January, scoring eight goals in eight games. In terms of visible impact, he was the team's most crucial player.
He struck twice in the first leg of the Copa del Rey last-16 tie against Espanyol, helping Barcelona romp to a 4-1 win at home, before following it up with a hat-trick against Granada.
It was one of the laziest trebles he'll ever score, but that's not to say it was without skill—lesser players wouldn't have had a sniff.
Messi collected the Ballon d'Or in the days after this game, before coming back and continuing to make the difference.
He struck against Athletic Club in a 6-0 league win, before scoring the winner against Malaga with an acrobatic volley.
That was followed by his low drive to equalise against Atletico Madrid in the month's final weekend.
Messi has five Ballon d'Or awards now, and judging by his form in January, he wants that to be six next year.
1. Gerard Pique
Despite the brilliance of Barcelona's front three, Barcelona's best player in January was Gerard Pique.
The centre-back featured in seven of the nine games, only missing the clash at Malaga thanks to suspension and being rested at Espanyol in the cup.
And in that game, you saw just what Barcelona were missing in his absence. The team looked flimsy, breakable and short on ideas.
Pique starts moves from the back, and even more importantly, he's the best way for Barcelona to break up the opposition's forward forays.
Despite heavy barracking by opposition supporters, Pique strides through games confident and alert—leading the team.
He helped Barcelona keep clean sheets against Espanyol, Granada and Athletic, all in La Liga.
Pique even chipped in with some goals too, notching against Espanyol in the first leg of the cup tie and against Athletic in the quarter-final second leg.
In this form, it's possible that Pique is the best centre-back in the world right now.
Special Mention: Munir El Haddadi
The young Barcelona forward enjoyed the best month of his football career.
As well as scoring both goals in the second leg of the last-16 Copa clash with Espanyol, he also opened the scoring against Athletic in the quarter-final.
Furthermore, playing in place of the injured Neymar, the 20-year-old notched the opener at La Rosaleda against Malaga.
Four goals is a fine haul considering he didn't feature in many of the other games, but his overall impact wasn't enough to get him in the list.