La Liga Weekend: Magical Messi Thrashes Levante

VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates his side's third goal during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on December 16, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images)

On a weekend of La Liga action that saw Atletico play a 3-2 thriller and Real Madrid struggle at home, someone else took the spotlight. Lionel Messi, once again, wowed us all with another vintage performance. In a game where Barcelona played a back-three, Messi decided three would be his magic number as well.

La Liga Weekend: Magical Messi Thrashes Levante

Levante 0-5 Barcelona

Just when you think Barcelona were going to slip up… Injuries to various defenders meant Barcelona played a back-three of Pique-Lenglet-Vermaelen with Ousmane Dembele at right wing-back. So naturally, Barcelona routed Levante 5-0 with Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick.

For the first 30 minutes of the game, it was all Levante. They forced a big save from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Emmanuel Boateng hit the post. But cometh the hour, cometh the man; Lionel Messi showed up and ended all of Levante’s hopes. He played a breathtaking pass to Luis Suarez for his first goal, then Messi went and scored three lovely goals of his own, each better than the one that came before.

Messi got to gif- wrap the victory with a cut-back for Gerard Pique in the dying minutes for Barcelona’s fifth, capping off a five-goal/assist game for the ‘Great One’. That gives him 14 goals and ten assists already this season, which is top in both across Europe. The win means Barcelona go top by three points over Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, whom we will get to.

The hat-trick also took Messi over 50 goals for club and country for the 2018 calendar year. That is the eighth time in the last nine years where he has gone over 50 total goals. He’s also going to be the only player that hits that number in 2018, and he was fifth in the Ballon d’Or.

Real Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano

Questions continue to be asked at Real Madrid, despite them continuing their winning ways. Last time out in La Liga, it was a 1-0 win at bottom side Huesca that was far from convincing. This time it was at the Bernabeu, against second-bottom Rayo Vallecano that they struggled through a sloppy 1-0 win.

On Saturday, in a local derby against Vallecano, it could have been a slaughter. By the 15th minute, Madrid already had the lead through some nice play from Lucas Vazquez feeding Karim Benzema for the goal. Real Madrid, at home, against the worst defence in the league, it was easy to expect four or five or maybe eight.

But that was, instead, the only goal of the match. The crazier thing is, by full-time Rayo Vallecano had outshot Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, 11-9. It was a great performance by Rayo all things considered but only one goal for Madrid meant this was their lowest scoring first 16 games since 1993/94. It’s beyond obvious that they miss Cristiano Ronaldo, but even he wouldn’t be scoring in this team.

They are getting absolutely nothing from their back seven, it’s almost like Toni Kroos and Luka Modric forgot how to play a pass. When they’re not playing great passes, there is little else they can provide. Their play dictates how many penetrative passes Real Madrid can make, which might explain why they’ve had such a hard time creating chances recently.

Madrid now head to the Club World Cup in hopes of forgetting the recent run of poor form and taking it out on some inferior opposition. However, the way Madrid have been playing against inferior opposition recently should worry any Madridista. If ever a European team was poised to be upset in this competition this could be the time.

Real Valladolid 2-3 Atletico Madrid

What a game we had at the Jose Zorrilla, with Atletico Madrid needing a win to go level on points with Barcelona before their game the next day. To be fair, it was a pretty awful first half, with the only goal coming courtesy of a lovely finish from Nikola Kalinic. But shortly after halftime, an Antoine Griezmann penalty gave the visitors a 2-0 lead and that should have been that.

Real Valladolid deserve a ton of credit, though, for in fact that was not that. Valladolid first got a goal back on a lovely header from Fernando Calero. The young Spanish centre-back has been the subject of plenty of transfer speculation recently and he put in another solid performance for Valladolid. But even he was surprised when Enes Unal played the ball off Saul Niguez into the Atletico Madrid net for the equalizer. There was nothing Jan Oblak could do.

Atletico Madrid have drawn too many games already this season. If they are going to keep pace in the league they needed three points, they needed a hero. And we all knew who that hero was going to be; Antoine Griezmann struck just when they needed him. It was Griezmann’s sixth goal of the season, six in 16 probably showing why Atletico have had so many draws. Between him and Costa, one in 11 is really the problem for Atleti; something to keep an eye out with two weeks till January.

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