BARCELONA

Messi assists keep Real Madrid in sight despite goal drought

The Barcelona forward has scored just once in seven games, something that has not happened in 15 years, but is still breaking records in LaLiga.

Barcelona forward Leo Messi finds himself on a historic barren run in front of goal, the Argentinean having scored just once in seven games. That has not happened before during Messi’s professional career but the Camp Nou captain is still breaking records in LaLiga. His assist for Arturo Vidal at Valladolid was his 20th of the season, bettering his own personal record of 19 and making him the first player to provide 20 assists in a campaign since Xavi in 2008-09. Messi is also the first player to score and assist more than 20 in a single Liga season. The Barça number 10 has 22 goals to his name in addition to matching the single-season record for assists in the Spanish top flight. His nearest challenger for the Pichichi trophy, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, is four behind with 18.

Since the restart, Messi has been uncharacteristically quiet in terms of goals but has provided nine assists for his teammates, effectively keeping Barça in the title race. Quique Setién said after the Valladolid win that Messi was in need of a rest and only the Argentinean and Marc-André ter Stegen have played every game they have been available for in LaLiga this season. After missing the first four games of the campaign with a foot injury and sitting out the victory over Getafe in week seven with a muscle issue, Messi has played 90 minutes in every game since match day eight, a total of 28 consecutive fixtures.

Messi involved in over 50 percent of Barça's goals

Despite his recent drought, which has seen Messi score only once from the spot against Atlético in seven games, the Barça forward is still his side’s highest scorer this season with 27 in 40 matches across all competitions. In total, Messi has had a direct hand in 53 percent of Barcelona’s 80 goals in 2019-20.

It was rumoured that Messi would be rested against Valladolid but finally it was Luis Suárez, who has returned from a lengthy injury absence, who warmed the bench in the José Zorrilla. Setién may insist that his star player needs a rest, but Messi more or less decides whether he plays and he shows no sign of giving up on catching Real Madrid yet.