Lionel Messi vs Leganes: Messi's genius rescues Barcelona yet again
Barcelona welcomed Leganes to the Nou Camp on Sunday night, as they prepared to keep their lead at the top of the table intact. With an important Copa Del Rey Quarterfinal game in midweek against Sevilla, Valverde decided to keep his talismanic captain Lionel Messi on the bench, aiming to give him much-needed rest.
Barcelona started with Ter Stegen in goal, while Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Thomas Vermaelen, and Jordi Alba made up the back four.
Carles Alena joined Sergio Busquets and Arthur Melo in the middle of the park, while up front, Philippe Coutinho started alongside Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.
They started the game well, and Dembele, before he picked up an injury, was particularly impressive. He tried to set up Suarez early on in the game, but the finishing was missing. It was quite deserving then, that in the 32nd minute, the French International made a deciding impact on the game. He started a counter, and ran towards the goal, easily getting past his markers.
He had a swift interchange with Alba, who cut the ball back to him to finish in the far post.
Even though Barcelona went into the half with a 1-0 lead, they were unable to seal the game and in the 57th minute, Martin Braithwaite punished them, tapping in the equalizer for Leganes. That was enough for Valverde to go for his main man. Barcelona needed a lot of inspiration and a little bit of magic - it was time for Messi to rescue them again.
He came in the 64th minute, putting on the armband and replacing Alena. Suddenly, the mood at the Nou Camp had improved. As always, he took a moment to unfurl his genius, assessing the game, noticing the runs and hatching plans. 7 minutes later, he ran inside from the left and unleashed a venomous shot that burned Cuellar's gloves. The Leganes custodian could only palm it up and Suarez poached on the rebound to slot the ball home.
VAR confirmed that there was no violation in process of scoring, and Messi helped his team take the lead. However, the Argentinean was not done yet. He knocked on the door a few more times and tried to set up his colleagues, knowing that another goal would put the game to bed. And his efforts bore fruit in the 92nd minute.
Once again, the Messi-Alba combination tore the opposition defence to pieces. After a beautiful interchange of passing between the two, Alba found Messi free in the box and the Barcelona Skipper unleashed a thunderbolt from his right leg to get the goal he deserved.
Messi has now scored 25 goals from 24 games this season. In La Liga, he has now scored 9 goals in his last 6 games. Against Leganes, Messi was the saviour of Barcelona. He came off the bench, steered his team to safety, and announced his genius to the whole world once again.