Two weeks after knocking off Real Madrid, Granada positioned themselves for an even bigger upset when they took a 26th minute lead today on visiting Barcelona. But after taking halftime to think it over, Lionel Messi, who came into Saturday’s match with 299 career all-competition goals, decided Barça wasn’t going to replicate their rivals’ error. Thanks to his second half double, Messi brought Barcelona back for a 2-1 victory.
The double raises Messi’s season total to 48 goals in 36 games. His 37 league tallies are 13 more than second-best Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s also scored 13 times (in 11 games) since the turn of the calendar.
Messi’s first came with Granada packed deep into their own end just after halftime. Cesc Fabregas let loose from 23 yards, and when Granada goalkeeper Toño blocked the shot back in front of goal. With Messi having peeled away from the defense after Fabregas released the shot, he was in perfect position for the put back:
Messi’s second could have been a response to Gareth Bale’s mid-week golazo, with a direct kick from the middle of the field giving the Barcelona star his choice for posts from just over 24 yards out. He chose left:
The win leaves Barcelona 15 points up on Atlético Madrid, who play at Real Valladolid tomorrow. They have a +53 goal difference and is on pace for 126 goals and a record 103 points.
They also take on Mario Balotelli and Milan on Wednesday in UEFA Champions League.
It isn’t Dortmund, but that’s a good thing for Liverpool.
Our own Joe Prince-Wright was on the scene for Jurgen Klopp’s unveiling as the latest Reds manager, and the 48-year-old German had a lot to say.
Perhaps most poignant for Liverpool fans are Klopp’s words on the talent he inherits from Brendan Rodgers. Sure there are quips that will hit the headlines, but how about Klopp’s assertion that success shouldn’t take nearly as long as his dramatic work at BVB.
From JPW on Merseyside:
“We did in Dortmund what we had to do, to improve the players, to work for a common idea of play. That is what we did and its the same thing we want to do here. They are not the same players of course,” Klopp told NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk. “These players from Liverpool are better, more experienced in some ways and younger in other cases. Everything is okay, I am here. I am not here only because LFC was calling. I believe in the potential of this team. Four or five strikers you can work with when they are not injured, midfielders is really good, defenders experienced and very young, goalkeeper is really good. Everything is there.”
Everything. A powerful word and one that doesn’t get lost in translation. Liverpool has a batch of world class talent, and Klopp’s is anxious to organize it in world class fashion. Strap in, Anfield.
So here we go: the biggest rivalry in U.S. Soccer, the one that sends fans racing for the stadia for a glimpse of history.
It’s the U.S. and Mexico for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, and it will play out at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
National pride is on the line, and national jobs may rightly be in jeopardy. Let’s swing through our coverage, and what’s at stake in just over 24 hours time.
Who is the key to Saturday’s match? Is it Michael Bradley? Fabian Johnson? Andres Guardado? Will Klinsmann opt for players with Liga MX experience, stay Euro Heavy, or appease the domestic set? Read more here.
So how will Klinsmann line ’em up? JPW has his preference, some options, and a prediction of what the manager will do.
What are the chances this one finds its way into the upper echelon of matches in the Mexico/U.S. rivalry? This is the company it could join.
The folks in the anti-Klinsmann brigade seethe with pure detestation of the USMNT boss. Any quote from him is self-serving and dishonest, any success accidental. Beat Germany or the Netherlands in friendlies on the road? Coincidental and Unimportant. Lose a friendly to Brazil? The worst thing ever.
[ MORE: The case for firing Klinsmann after a loss ]
So this match, being meaningful and testing his unbeaten mark vs Mexico, is going to be a clarion call for U.S. Soccer fans. Barring a cataclysmic loss in horrific blowout fashion, he won’t be canned. But a win will be validation for his supporters while a loss would cue a genuine hot seat. And for his detractors, already foaming at the mouth from the words of icon Landon Donovan? Kablammo.