A friend of mine, and Real Betis fan resigned to the bad years he is enduring with his own team, said to me recently: "Barça is Betis with Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar up front." This came back to me during the second half of Saturday's game, when La Real got into the disorganised Barça area again and again. In the first half, Messi had scored two goals and had provided an assist for the other from Alcácer, who had taken the suspended Neymar's place. With that he managed to get a win for the club, but it was inevitable that we'd reflect on how little a team there was behind Messi and how many there are missing. Some players have a drop in form, new ones don't fit right, and many are in and out of the side depending on the day.
André Gomes for Nobel Prize
Therefore, it's not strange for Luis Enrique to be in a worse mood than normal. He has to manage Iniesta, in the same way that he had to manage Xavi in his last year, but no one wants to admit it. Why? I'm sure it's because of André Gomes, a player in whom he shows a confidence worthy of a better cause. For me, he's a great player, but cold and unsettled. This is not his moment. The expectations on him when he arrived were so great that there was a clause included in case he won the Ballon d'Or, which, in light of what we are seeing, is as absurd as if the clause was about him being crowned with the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Can Messi, Suárez and Neymar carry the team to glory?
To get the group going again, Luis Enrique had two antidotes: announce that he was leaving and return to the 3-4-3 of Cruyff. The positive effects were temporary. His departure announcement gave an initial relief for players who were fed up, but, as the weeks have passed, all that remains is unruliness. The 3-4-3 has meant that players have been pulled, in and out, (Mathieu, Jordi Alba ...) and they are not convinced. In the middle of everything, the PSG miracle created a new feeling of excitement, but it burned out too soon. Ahead lies the week in which the club decides its season, the Copa del Rey notwithstanding. I wonder until what point Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar will be able to shoulder the burden.