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Willem II Willem II WII

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FC Emmen FC Emmen EMM

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Liga Portuguesa

BARCELONA

Messi: more goals than games in Barça's 2018-19 campaign

Messi: more goals than games in Barça's 2018-19 campaign

Getty Images

The Argentinean is an even more rounded player this season, involved more in creating chances and defensive work as a season-high foul rate in Getafe showed.

Leo Messi was fouled six times in the Coliseum during Barça’s 2-1 victory over Getafe on Sunday evening, more than in any other game this season. It is a statistic that points to the home side’s robust approach but also highlights the Argentinean’s increased involvement in Barça’s build-up play, the number 10 dropping deep and popping up in every area of the pitch in search of the ball.

Barça’s win was particularly significant given results elsewhere, with Sevilla and Atlético, their nearest challengers, sharing the spoils in the Sánchez Pizjuán and Real Madrid slipping further behind in defeat to Real Sociedad. And Messi again was key to his side’s hard-fought success – even if Getafe had a goal erroneously disallowed – as he shows every sign of starting 2019 as he ended 2018: Messi is already worth more than a goal a game this season, hitting 22 in 21 official games. In his last four matches, the Argentinean has scored seven times.

Messi even more rounded this season

But Messi has added another facet to his game. As well as his increased involvement in creating chances for his teammates and finishing them off, the 31-year-old is also putting in more defensive work. At the end of the game in the Coliseum, Messi was exhausted, a player who had run his socks off at both ends of the pitch.

Aiding him in this pursuit is the fact that Messi knows he will be handed more rest time this season. He will be spared the Copa game away at Levante and may be limited to playing home games only in the domestic cup, if that. Messi, his strike partner Luis Suárez, and Ernesto Valverde are keenly aware that the side’s fatigue in Rome cost them dear last season and will aim to ensure that all of the side’s main components are at full tilt at the business end of the season. In the meantime, Messi has been handed the reins to push himself in games like Sunday’s, against tough opposition and with the result far from assured until the final whistle.