Barcelona need Neymar to rediscover form ahead of crucial matches against City and Real Madrid
Barcelona’s win over Eibar on Saturday night was down to the one and only Lionel Messi, however the player it seems most interesting to focus on is his strike partner Neymar.
We know all about the Argentinian and his propensity to bewitch, dazzle and destroy opponents, with the Basque minnows his latest victims ass the quality of his two goals, a penalty and a header from a corner, did little to reflect the majesty of his overall display.
One dribble in the first half saw him take out several Eibar players, with the defenders left gasping for air in his wake.
Luis Enrique knows he will have no problems with Messi when it comes to the week ahead, the biggest of Barcelona’s season. First there’s the Champions League tie against Manchester City for the Catalans to get through, with their 2-1 lead from the Etihad, and then, on Sunday, the Clasico.
Speak to any Barcelona player and they’ll tell you that the match against Real Madrid won’t be decisive in the La Liga title race. And while there are several games to play after that, there’s little doubt that it will be a key factor in deciding which team lifts the league trophy come the 24th of May.
There have been two reasons for Barcelona being able to leverage themselves above their arch-rivals in recent weeks. One is the form of Real Madrid, which has dipped severely. The other is the productivity of the attacking trio, Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Neymar needs to get back to his best
While Suarez didn’t score against Eibar either, his recent form has been at an extremely high level. Neymar, meanwhile, has three goals in his last seven matches. To put that into contrast against his previous form, he had seven goals in the seven games before that.
And while it’s true that keeping up that rate of scoring is impossible unless you are Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, his overall performances have been getting weaker, too. Against Villarreal in the Copa del Rey, he netted twice, but his overall performance was far from the heights he reached in prior months.
Neymar has looked tired, and that didn’t change against Eibar, despite being given a few days off in the week. He was suspended against Rayo Vallecano last Sunday and Enrique let the forward fly to Brazil.
Neymar partied with his sister Rafaella, who was celebrating her 19th birthday, per Sport. While there’s a lot to be said for family time, it would probably have been more beneficial to Barcelona if Neymar hadn’t undertaken that long-haul journey.
The forward was substituted for Pedro against Eibar, and it wasn’t after a job well done. Barcelona lacked spark as a whole, Neymar particularly. There was nothing wrong with the team’s performance, in a tough stadium to play at, against a hard-working side, but you want more from a player of Neymar’s undoubted ability.
Enrique has to get to the bottom of why the forward is not working at the same level as he had been in the first half of the season. Barcelona never managed to do that with Cesc Fabregas, and it seems Chelsea are having the same difficulty.
Even if it takes a few weeks to restore Neymar to the level he was, Enrique will be praying the Brazilian brings his big game to this week’s huge ones.