The absence of the Argentinean was greatly felt, as the team lacked of his brilliant touch and was just able to score one time through David Villa.
Messi has only been out one game due to injury suffered on Sunday against Atletico de Madrid, but the team already experienced how vital he is for the good performance of the team. Not only is he a leader, a decisive player, and feared striker, but also the spark that gives brilliance to their game. The game from today can be compared to the one against Hercules, with the huge difference that this time they were able to win the game. Although they controlled great part of the game, that dominance was not translated into goals, which caused them to work harder to score the first goal, and after that to defend their minimum advantage.
The offensive line was in charge of David Villa, Bojan Krkic, and Andres Iniesta, and yet only Villa was able to send the ball to the back of the net, after an assist from Dani Alves in the 49th minute. That was the only occasion in which Barcelona was able to break through the ordained defensive block from Sporting, which did a great job closing spaces.
Coach Joseph Guardiola has a tough task ahead as he needs to find a way to break strategies like the one implemented by Sporting -and Hercules during Week 2- of grouping a lot of players defensively, making it harder for them to break pass the defensive line and find clear spaces. The statistics clearly reflect this, because in those two home games they were only able to score once, in contrast with their two away games against Racing (0-3) and Atletico de Madrid (1-2), where they enjoyed of more liberty.
The players leave satisfied because the three points in game were won, but the fans that are so used to the wonderful game played by Barcelona surely leave disappointed after such an unappealing game, that not only bored them, but also made them suffer more than expected.
On Saturday they have a pretty dangerous game against the always-complicated Athletic de Bilbao, a team known for being solid at home. A good example is what happened on their game against Mallorca during Week 4, whom they defeated by 3-0 in San Mames. They occupy the sixth place in the classification with seven points, just two away from Barcelona that comes in third with nine points.
This will be the second game that Messi will miss while he heals from his sprained ankle, which occurred after a really violent tackle from Tomas Ujfalusi during Barcelona’s visit last Sunday to Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Messi is expected to see action again this coming Wednesday against Rubin Kazan, when Barcelona will be traveling to Russia for the Week 2 of the UEFA Champions League.
Pique reaches his 100th game with Barcelona
Defender Gerard Pique arrived to Barcelona in the 2008-09 season from Manchester United, in exchange for 5 million Euros, and since that moment he consolidated as the starter defender. That year he played 45 games and scored three goals, and his contribution was vital for the six championships won that year. The past season he saw action in 49 games, and scored four goals, which help to win the Liga. And this season he has participated in six games so far, scoring the winning goal against Atletico de Madrid.