Last night, it was a one-man show. Lionel Messi's 33rd La Liga hat-trick single-handedly defeated Real Betis as Barcelona came out on top with a comfortable 4-1 win. Had Luis Suarez been more clinical, the scoreline might have read 6 or 7 for the Blaugrana.
A match to remember
The way Messi scored his goals was just magnificent. His curling free kick got the stadium on its feet. His next was a team move finished by a simple tap in. However, his third was the best of the lot. A delightful chipped finish would give him another hattrick and an unassailable 4-1 lead to Barcelona. A standing ovation from Betis fans summed up his night.
Total focus on the Champions League
Barcelona has a maximum of 16 matches to play this season. Of them, 10 are in La Liga and one is a Copa del Rey final. They are 10 points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid and are expected to win both the competitions without breaking much sweat. From now, their total focus will be on the UEFA Champions League.
Having been continuously knocked out in the quarterfinals for the past three editions, a win in the Champions League is seen as a must for this season. Thus the remaining 5 Champions League matches will define their season. Basically, all that is left for Barcelona is just these five games (quarter-finals, semi-finals and final) assuming they reach that far.
The Messi factor
When Messi is at his best, nobody stands a chance against him. When he is not, he often elevates the level of his teammates, making them play as they have never done before. Calling Messi as Barcelona biggest hope for the Champions League would be no lie.
The Blaugrana need their best player in top form for the upcoming matches in Europe. Displays like Real Betis are highly encouraging.
From now on, Barcelona needs to give adequate rest to Messi until the end of the season. His 29 goals in La Liga are the highest in Europe and a few more would be sufficient for his sixth European Golden Boot. So there is no need for him to play much in La Liga unless absolutely necessary.
Treble in sight
As his teammates look at him for inspiration, a fit and in-form Messi would make Barcelona look like the best team in the world. However strong Manchester City may seem with their squad, they may have to bow down to the genius of Messi, provided he continues to perform at a level like this.
Barcelona is truly capable of winning their third treble. If they manage Messi well, the rest will automatically fall in place.Published 18 Mar 2019, 11:50 IST