“My aim isn’t to go one better”
Messi, who won last season’s Golden Boot with 73 goals, is not setting himself any record-breaking target for this campaign: “My aim isn’t to go one better or score goals. The most important thing is that the team keeps on winning. If I score, then better but if I don’t, this team has plenty of ways of scoring”.
Messi admitted that there was a long way to go in the season but highlighted the team’s great start: “It’s good not drop points at the beginning, something that always happened in the last few years”.
But above all, Leo Messi was determined to squash right from the start any debate on a possible rift between him and Villa, following on from an exchange of words the players had during the Granada game. In an interview for Barça TV’s ‘El Marcador’ programme, he explained: “People shouldn’t look for a problem where there isn’t one. We’ve got a spectacular squad. These things are part of football, with the tension of wanting to score to make everything easier and win. It happens in training and in matches as well. I haven’t got any problems with ‘El Guaje, quite the opposite”. In fact, Messi went on to stress: “These things show the character of the team to want to win and keep on playing well. We get ‘heated’ because we want the best and the tension makes you react like that”.
“It’s good to start this way”
Messi also singled out a great start to the season which has seen the team win five league games out of five and take a firm hold on the top of the table. “We have to carry on this way but keep in mind that there’s a long way to go. But it’s good to start this way and not drop points at the beginning, something that always happened in the last few years”.
However, Messi admits that the team can still improve and proof that they’re not firing on all cylinders just yet was the performance against Granada: “Perhaps we were a bit asleep in the first half but in the second half we found more space and created more chances. It difficult to play against teams that close down at the back. We had more difficulty in the first half because we needn’t to play faster. If we win without being at 100% perhaps later it’ll be easier. It’s a long (season) but we have to keep up this dynamic”.
– With five wins in five matches, Barça are just one more victory away from equalling the best ever start to a league campaign.
– Cesc Fabregas is the only outfield player who has started all five league matches.
– Barça produced 20 shots (13 on target), while Granada lo had just 6 (3 on target).
– Barça had 70% of the possession.
– Barça players made 701 passes, compared to 182 from Granada.
– Xavi Hernandez, who was on the pitch for just 41 minutes, completed 62 passes, almost three times as many as the best Granada player (Orellana, with 22).
– The two Barça central defenders, Alex Song and Javier Mascherano, topped the ranking of balls recovered, with 13 and 12 respectively.
– David Villa made his first appearance in the starting line-up since picking up a serious injury last December.
The midfielder came onto the pitch for Thiago with 36 minutes left on the clock. The prior 54 minutes saw the Azulgranas frustrated by a nearly impenetrable Granada defence and an absolutely superb Toño in goal. With three minutes to go before the full 90, the fans at the Camp Nou started digesting the possibility that their team might not win its fifth consecutive match in La Liga. But then Pedro slotted in a low, hard cross from the right wing that was scooped up by Xavi. The midfielder, whose talents aren’t always associated with scoring goals, unleashed a powerful right-footed shot that nicked the crossbar before settling into the back of the net. Xavi’s goal led the way to Barça’s eventual 2-0 win over Granada, thus preserving the team’s perfect run in the Liga.
Despite the palpable tension at the Camp Nou due to the 0-0 scoreline, Víctor Valdés didn’t have a lot do to. However, just minutes before Xavi’s magnificent strike, the unmarked Fabián Orellana found himself in front of Víctor Valdés in the Barça area. The Granada player sent his shot low and to Valdés’ left but the keeper was quick off his line and pulled out an amazing save that kept his team’s hopes alive of winning the match. After the game, Andoni Zubizarreta noted that “Víctor once again showed why he’s Barça’s keeper.”
The Brazilian defender was omnipresent on the right side of the pitch. The right back barreled into Granada territory throughout the first half and linked-up with Messi and Alexis superbly to keep his white-and-blue counterpart on the back foot. However, when Granada surged forward after a quick overturn the Brazilian was always there to stop the counterattack in its tracks.
The players agree that the team has a “winning dynamic”
Next training session on Tuesday at 19.00
FC Barcelona’s first team players will return to work on Tuesday, September 25, at 19.00 at the Ciutat Esportiva. The players will have Sunday and Monday off.
Xavi Hernández was overjoyed with Barça’s win this evening against Granada: “These three points against a well-organised Granada team are very important, they were very disciplined. It was a very complicated match but we won the three points and that’s what’s important.” The Catalan midfielder praised the visiting side’s goalkeeper: “Toño was spectacular, he saved nearly everything. The only thing that beat him was a shot from outside the area that went into the upper 90.” He added, “I’m very pleased that I scored and for what the goal means to the team. We won the match and we have a winning dynamic.”
The Barça vice-captain said that in “other seasons we wouldn’t have won this match but tonight we did. This is what it means to have a winning team.” On the distance the separates Real Madrid from Barça, Xavi was prudent: “Let’s see what they do on Sunday, but our record so far is perfect. 15 out of 15, it’s a good dynamic. Let’s see what our advantage looks like tomorrow.”
Here are the statements made by the Barça players after tonight’s match at the Camp Nou:
“Every victory is important, but today’s was more difficult than others, but we have to be able to make it through these types of games. This isn’t to say that we did a poor job, rather our opponents played a good game.”
“I think this team is defined by the patience it displays throughout the whole match. We try to be constant in our attack, there were a couple of times where they came close to scoring but we had to take the risk. We played really well, but their keeper played better than us.”
“It’s important for us to win all three points, independently of what other teams do. It’s time to focus on next week.”
“The teams we come up against are closing themselves off at the back more and more and we need to be patient and attack in an organised manner and find the few spaces they leave us. This victory is due to our consistency and patience.”
“In the first half all of our attempts were blocked by some player’s foot or body and that’s really difficult to overcome. We have to continue like this because it’s our philosophy and it’s hard to change. We need to keep on working like this because we’re going to come up against these types of teams in the future.”
“We know that all of the teams are really hard to play against but I’m sticking with how we reacted in the second half. Toño played the game of his life, we came up against a rock in goal that saved everything we threw at it.”
“Starting off well is important. There will be times during the season that we won’t do as well as we’re doing now and we have to take advantage of our form. It’s excellent that we’ve won 15 out of 15 points.”
“I feel better each day, but I need that one goal. I had three good chances in the second half but they were all saved brilliantly. In the first half I had a chance but it’s true that sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. The important thing is that the team won and that we all have a good feeling about how things are going.”
“The important thing is winning and if you can’t score, try and help your teammate score. Xavi scored tonight, so I’m really happy.”
“It’s an important week, we have a couple of days off – I’m going to spend them at home with my family. Then it’s time to prepare for the really difficult match we have on the weekend.”
“It’s too early [to tell how the season will go], we’re putting a bit of pressure on them [Real Madrid] and they have a tough match against Rayo. We can’t relax because Real Madrid always operates well under pressure.”