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Santi Giménez | 17/02/2013
It doesn't matter if Granada play out of their skins. It doesn't matter if Barcelona, with a league lead that leaves plenty of room for slip-ups and with minds already wandering to upcoming fixtures, play in a state of semi-stupor. However well Granada played, however badly Barça played, the outcome of the game lay solely in the hands of the Argentine. So, we come to the conclusion that this isn't a boring league. It's Messi's league. If Barcelona beat Granada 2-1 it was down to Messi (and to Victor Valdés, because goalkeeper is the only position Leo cannot cover, and because Valdés is a great keeper).
Yet beyond the victory that - if it is indeed possible - further strengthens Barcelona's firm grip on La Liga as they march serenely towards the title, there are elements that the Catalan outfit will look back on with concern if they entertain real aspirations of higher goals. Yes, Saturday night was just another box to be ticked as they glide to the title, but the fact remains that Barça have now conceded in nine consecutive games. Messi is forced to find an excess of goals up front to cover up the gaps at the back. So far, it has worked in La Liga. But in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League this remains to be seen.
The narrative of Barça's victory is reminiscent of the Real Madrid of the 'galácticos'. That sounds bad, but it comes with the excuse that the visitors' line-up included neither Andrés Iniesta nor Xavi, who together constitute the heartbeat of the 'azulgrana' side's play. But it is inescapable that the game came down to the saves of Valdés and the finishing of Messi, much as Madrid used to base their triumphs on the feats of Iker Casillas and Ronaldo. A one-off, perhaps, but it happened. What came between the keeper and the striker was worrying.
Without Iniesta or Xavi, the game was a crazy one. From the start, Messi took it upon himself to do Iniesta's job. He did so excellently, but came up against one problem: there was nobody to do Messi's job, that of finisher-in-chief. Only David Villa is capable, and he wasn't there. So, it was down to Alexis Sánchez to get the goals, and the results were tragic: the Chilean, the Sisyphus of goal-scoring, dragged the ball to the goal is if it were a rock, only to see it fall back down the hill before he could finish. It was truly desperate.
With Barcelona in such permissive mood, Granada saw their chance to create danger by penetrating down the flank of an ailing Adriano and switching the play to the flank of an absent Dani Alves. That's how Odion Ighalo's goal arrived as the first half ended with defeat on the horizon for Barça. Deserved defeat. But, in the midst of the chaos, Messi appeared to score two, atypical goals: one from a rebound and another direct from a free-kick. Three points more for Barcelona as they smell glory. In La Liga, at least.
IMAGEN: Messi juega otra Liga