Barça are through to the next round in the Cup and all thanks to another moment of Messi magic. In three straight games we have seen him hit the target with clean, precision strikes – all of them struck towards the opposite side to where the keeper was moving. It’s almost a skill he has developed based on that penalty-taking technique of waiting until the last instant, until the keeper gives an indication as to which way he will dive. From such free-kicks, Messi has beaten Gorka Iraizoz twice and Sergio Asenjo – both too hasty in trying to second-guess the Argentinean, and Messi caught them flat-footed every time. I’ve decided to highlight it because I don’t recall any similar run of remarkable set-pieces and because all of those three goals illuminated what has been and ugly and ill-humoured week at Barça, who seem to be in a rush to resurrect old complexes, through Piqué.
Piqué has been praised – there are people who buy his message, which must mean they reject Luis Enrique’s point of view, which is the opposite. Last night’s match official Jesús Gil Manzano, began by lending ammunition to the Piqué camp when, in a mix-up with his linesman, he wrongly ruled out a Barça goal for offside. After that he sailed through his refereeing before ending, with the score at 3-1 and in stoppage time, being hoodwinked by a reckless foul, ironically from Piqué on Williams. What mysterious ways the football gods work in! Anyway, the game was left with what I was on about at the start - Messi tucked his free-kick right into the bottom corner and put Barça into the quarter final draw. Messi is the light in this cheerless Barça, who feel bad because they can see how happy Madrid are.
Seville, twice in four days
Madrid are so blissfully happy, that they travelled to Seville without Cristiano or Modric, who will be rested. There are other players out due to injury but Zidane feels comfortable with the 3-0 advantage from the first leg and confirmed the faith he has in his entire squad. Sampaoli has also decided to reserve a few players: Mariano, N’Zonzi and Franco Vázquez. In both cases it’s a question of erring on the side of caution. Sevilla are also battling in LaLiga title race and so it’s not so surprising that Sampaoli will also go into tonight’s game with one eye on Sunday’s league meeting. Yet, even with so many players held in reserve, I’m sure we are going to see an intense match, as Madrid visits to the Pizjuán since time immemorial, usually are.