Last weekend’s game ended with a play that denoted the Blaugrana’s focus once the three points had been secured: Pique ran up the field and had two superb wall passes. When he reached the front of the 18-yard box, he found Messi in the middle who then connected with Pedro on the far right. The winger swung the ball back to the opposite side of the area and left Pique completely alone against Iraizoz. The defender, perfectly set up to score the sixth goal for his team, surprisingly drew a backwards pass so that Messi could connect a diving header. Had that opportunity gone into Athletic Bilbao’s net, the Argentine would have scored his 85th goal of the year… but the ball went slightly over the crossbar.
The play in itself showed exactly how concerned the team was in helping out Messi reach his record as soon as possible. It reminded fans of the efforts the Cules made back in 2009 when Eto’o was battling for the Pichichi with Forlan and Villa. Then, with the Liga trophy secured, the team spent the last few weeks constantly looking to set up the Cameroonian so he could win the trophy, and Messi even allowed him to shoot the penalties in trying to help his teammate.
Today, it seems the one helping out Messi is his own coach, Tito Vilanova. With the first spot of the group in their pocket, tonight’s game is all about seeing who will get UEFA’s cash bonus for winning the three points…and hoping to see Messi overtake Muller with still four more games to go in the year.
Because of the lack of danger in tonight’s match, Vilanova has left out of his call up list players like Xavi, Iniesta, Mascherano, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Cesc Fabregas; but Messi on the other hand has been included.
After lining up 11 homegrown two weeks ago, Tito could make Sergi Gomez, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha, Deulofeu, Tello or even Planas a part of the starting lineup tonight, plus Thiago Alcantara (who is slowly coming into play after his injury early in the season), Montoya and of course Messi. The need to give some playing time to Villa and Alexander Song will most definitely not permit a full homegrown starting lineup, but Barcelona has such a large lead in the Spanish and Champions League that they can really go after a “never-before-seen” antic and actually accomplish it.
But tonight the team will focus on hoping Messi can surpass Muller’s record during the 90 minutes against Benfica. Certainly an amazing feat for the young Argentine, although the former Bayern Munich forward will always be able to hold on to the fact that he reached his impressive record in only 60 games…which will be an almost impossible record to beat.
“Almost” being the key word here; at least while Messi and Ronaldo remain in active duty.
Lionel Messi has broken German great Gerd Mueller‘s 40-year-old record for most goals in a year by scoring for the 86th time in 2012.