Lionel Messi Saves FC Barcelona...Again, Time for Teammates to Step Up

Xoel Cardenas@@XoelCardenasContributor IIISeptember 20, 2012

King Leo
King LeoDavid Ramos/Getty Images

What would FC Barcelona be without Lionel Messi?

By the way things look, probably a team that can pass but can’t score too many goals.

I know it’s a scary thought, but really, this team would be a bit lost on offense regardless of the other great players on the roster.

Superman delivered again as Messi’s two goals completed the Barcelona comeback against a tough Spartak Moscow in the opening game of the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Messi’s greatness helped Barcelona edge out a 3-2 victory at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

Down 2-1 in the 70th minute, Messi found the back of the net following a fantastic play by Cristian Tello on the left side of the penalty box. Tello slipped by on defender and passed the ball just before two Spartak defenders could stop the pass. Messi was left open and it was 2-2.

The second goal came in the 80th minute as Alexis Sanchez found Leo with a short lob pass to Messi who headed it in and to complete the comeback.

Andres Iniesta was sorely missed on offense, if I can say so.

While the victory displayed the greatness that is Lionel Messi, it also showed that this Barcelona team still has not learned its lesson from last season.

Last year, Messi put this team on his back all throughout the Liga and Champions League run. While all the great ones have to put their teams on their backs at times, only a few of them can continue that burden for an extended period of time. Messi could not carry Barcelona to a Champions League title last season partly due to lack of help on offense.

Just remember the Champions League semifinal, second leg against Chelsea at Camp Nou. Barcelona was essentially waiting for Messi to make a play and a goal. They were not able to help Messi in any way and Barcelona was eliminated.

I’m hopeful that this year is different.

Pedro seems to be getting back to form. Cristian Tello is perhaps the only player not named Messi that is giving defenders trouble. His dynamic plays have been a major help and his role will grow in the offense as Tito Vilanova has shown much faith in the kid by starting him over a now healthy David Villa.

Speaking of el guaje, Villa has shown he hasn’t lost the goal-making touch and he will play a huge role in Barcelona’s success this season.

The forward that needs to step up the most is Alexis Sanchez. So far, Sanchez has not lived up to expectations and is struggling to find the back of the net. If he doesn’t have a terrific rest of the season with el blaugrana, the Chilean may find himself either on the bench or sent out on loan as Neymar is expected to arrive at FC Barcelona in 2013.

On twitter, I was critical of Barcelona and their lack of intensity during the game. Some alleged Barcelona fans were tweeting me, asking why I am criticizing the team and that it shows I’m not a true Barcelona fan.

No, that shows you are not a true Barcelona fan.

First off, to question my dedication and support of this team is ridiculous. Come on, I write 2-3 articles a week about them.

Second, FC Barcelona is great, but they’re not perfect. Any alleged Barcelona “fan” who never criticizes the team and thinks Barça can do no wrong is just plain ignorant and is not a true Culé.  

Third and most importantly, any sports fan that is not critical of his or her team is not a true fan of that team. A true fan acknowledges when his/her team is struggling and is not afraid to criticize the team. For example, I saw many so-call Barça fans not give credit to Real Madrid for their victory in the Spanish Super Cup over Barça. That’s sad and those so-call Barça fans have no class. Even though Real is our eternal rival, there is nothing wrong with giving them credit when they beat Barça fair and square. Yes, I joke about Real Madrid and so forth in some of my articles, but that’s just part of the rivalry. You and I may not like Real Madrid, or Chelsea, or Inter Milan, but you should respect them when they beat your team in a fair manner.

Barcelona lacked heart and intensity for most of the Spartak Moscow game, and I criticized them for it. That doesn’t mean I don’t love Barcelona. I criticize them because I love the team so much that I expect the best from them every game. You can’t win them all, but I just want to see a better effort on the pitch.

I’m not trying to make a big deal out of just one game. It’s just that I see similarities between the Spartak game and many of Barcelona’s games from last season.

And we all know how that turned out: no Liga and no Champions League title.

The defense is a problem with all of their injuries. But one way a team can make up for a thin defense is with an offense that scores plenty of goals. Barcelona has shown it can score goals, but many of those goal are too dependent on Messi and his passes.

While Leo did get great passes by Tello and Sanchez to set up goals in the Spartak game, that's not always going to happen.

Leo can't and won't always score goals with all the passes he gets from his teammates. Messi scored over 70 goals in all competitions last season and Barcelona still did not score enough goals to get past Chelsea in the Champions League or slip up in La Liga.

The defense was not the entire problem in 2011-12.

Leo needs his teammates to not get lost in tough games and score goals, not just set up passes.

It's great that Messi is scoring goals and setting up his teammates. Goals are goals, but Leo can't always be the player the offense depends on for setting up and making goals.  

All great players need his or her teammates to step up and take the load off their teammate’s shoulders at times.

Lionel Messi is, in my opinion, the greatest footballer ever, but even the greatest needs help.

It’s time for the rest of the Barcelona offense to step it up and help Messi, especially in Champions League games or any game that they are behind in.

The road to Wembley for the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final will be a whole lot easier for FC Barcelona if done so.

Visca el Barça!

Thanks for reading.

Remember, I will begin “FIFA Thursdays” every Thursday beginning September 27. I will be online from 10 p.m. to midnight ET playing against my readers.

So if you want to play against me and beat me at FIFA 13, I'm on Xbox 360 and my username is Xoel7. Find me there, as I look forward to beating many of you on FIFA 13.

And you can guess which team I’ll always pick.

It’s a small way of saying thanks for checking out my articles, and thanks for reading Bleacher Report.

Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.

Don't forget to check out my other columns:

Observing the Real Madrid Drama From a Barca Fan's Perspective

FC Barcelona: No Camp Nou on FIFA 13?


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