Lionel Messi’s teammates gifted him his 87th and 88th goals of the calendar year as Barcelona FC beat hosts Cordoba CF 2-0 in their Copa del Rey match today. The first goal, an 11th minute tap-in, made adventuresome via a Messi slam off the crossbar from inside the goalkeeper’s box, came courtesy of an Andres Iniesta set up and a charitable David Villa tap pass to the unmarked Messi in front of an empty goal. The second, at the 74th minute, was a perfect Alexis Sanchez crossing pass that caught Lio in stride for a far post put away. This is the seventh consecutive game this year with a Messi brace.
With two games to go, one against Atletico Madrid and one against Real Valladolid, Messi is sure to be pushing to reach his unspoken objective of 90 goals in a calendar year, to go with his similarly well rounded record of 50 goals in a La Liga season. Watch for Atletico and Valladolid to play him tough, keeping him honest, and see his teammates working overtime to overcome that honesty.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid was outplayed by hosts Celta Vigo who were ahead 2-0 until the 87th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a consolation goal. Coach Jose Mourinho, still trying to save face this season, managed to play the umpteenth team roster and formation, ensuring the lack of any possible continuity remained consistent. Bringing new players into the second half who should have been given the chance to start and jell in the first simply compounded the difficulty for a team that seems to be imploding, from all sides.
If the Copa ends up out of reach, only a UEFA Champions League trophy will keep the options open for the Special One in Madrid. Some might argue that having won the Copa and Liga the Champions League would make it a treble and a good enough note to leave on, calling his Spanish sojourn another top league success. If Mou does leave, who would be up for consideration at the helm next? Methinks Mr. Guardiola would rather be employed elsewhere by then, but otherwise the options will be wide open.
Completing the day’s games with the three top La Liga teams, Atletico Madrid played host to Getafe without Radamel Falcao, who is nursing an injury. Nevertheless the other Madrid side managed a convincing 3-0 victory to keep their incredible form humming this season. Next up for the by-then-well-rested-and-recouped Falcao, a meeting at the Camp Nou.
With Messi’s scoring mania behind us after the La Liga Christmas Break, the results of the next two Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Malaga, and Barcelona games will go a long way toward settling the 2nd through 4th slots of the table for the second half of the domestic title. Despite the upward climb Real have dealt themselves, and the easy road Atletico, Barca and Sevilla have built, it is the expected late January and February Copa semifinals between the Catalans and the Madridistas and the March 3, 2013 La Liga clash at the Bernabeu, that will be the remaining Spanish Football focus on the domestic front.
It will be up to the Champions League draw later this month to tell us what else will be in store for the four La Liga representatives come 2013.