Barcelona is a long shot to claim a third-straight La Liga title but that isn’t stopping Lionel Messi from setting new standards.
Messi slipped Arturo Vidal through for the lone goal of Barcelona’s win at Real Valladolid on Sunday, collecting his 20th assist of the league season in the process.
The helper makes Messi the second player this century to record 20 goals and 20 assists in a top five European league season after his former teammate Thierry Henry did it with Arsenal (24+20). Messi has 22 goals this season.
He’s also the first player to do it in La Liga, and the first to record 20 assists in a La Liga season since another former teammate, Xavi Hernandez.
Messi is one of eight players in Europe’s top five leagues to score 20-plus goals and one of only two with 20 assists (Thomas Muller). Only five others have double-digit goals and assists: Kevin De Bruyne, Serge Gnabry, Jadon Sancho, Alassane Plea, and Mikel Oyarzabal.
Barcelona hosts Osasuna and visits Alaves on the final two match days of the season. Can he match or even beat Henry’s goal output? He has 30 goals in 28 career appearances against the aforementioned opponents.
Real Madrid will edge closer to wrapping up the league with a win at Granada on Monday. Zinedine Zidane’s men are on an incredible and near-imperious run, having won eight-straight games and riding a 457-minute league shutout streak.
Real currently leads Barca by a point with a match-in-hand, then finish with Villarreal and Leganes.
League and FA Cup runs died at the semifinal stages, with Manchester United ousting Arsenal from the latter and Middlesbrough the former. Chelsea knocked Arsenal out of the UEFA Champions League.
The Gunners drew two teams twice: Portsmouth and Manchester United. They also drew with Fulham and Birmingham City at home, splitting the spoils with Spurs, Newcastle, Everton, Bolton, Leicester City, and Charlton Athletic away.
Arsenal is cheekily just “Arsena” today on Twitter because they just couldn’t take an L.
We definitely want to see your lists, but won’t dodge the duty of putting together a 20-pack of our own.
The only two parameters are that the player spent the lion’s share of his career — or career so-far — with the team in question or had a significant historical moment with the club, and that he played during the Premier League era.
There will be the appearance of recency bias for some of these clubs whose PL existence doesn’t run back too far.
And there’s also the challenge that comes with certain players just striking our fancy at any given time.
Arsenal — It just has to be Thierry Henry. The French magician elevated the beauty of the game, even if you didn’t like his particular club.
Aston Villa — Oddly enough as an American, I’m not going with one of the Brads (Freidel or Guzan). I’m also going with a player who’s playing just his second season with the club. Tyrone Mings is a fearless defender with an old-school ethic. One of the scariest players in the league today.
Bournemouth — Wanted to cheat and say Eddie Howe, but the Cherries weren’t in the PL when he was a player. I’ll take one of the two closest things to Howe on the current roster and that is Steve Cook (honorable nod to Simon Francis). Cook has appeared a record 329 times for the Cherries beginning at the League One level in 2011. Massive respect to a mainstay who isn’t even the first Steve Cook that shows up on a Google search.
Brighton and Hove Albion — I’m sure there’s a subset of Seagulls supporters who haven’t yet forgiven Glenn Murray for his time at M23 Derby rivals Palace, but I love that the 36-year-old is still bagging goals in his second 100-plus appearance stint with the club.
Burnley — Tom Heaton may be the most underappreciated keeper to don an England shirt, and he’s twice led the Clarets into the Premier League. Now in a different claret shirt, he’s not forgotten.
Chelsea — Love the helmet. Love the saves. Love the rock drumming and the post-soccer hockey career. Petr Cech, all the way. In time, though, this could become Cesar Azpilicueta or, for obvious reasons, Christian Pulisic.
Crystal Palace — Mile Jedinak. I loved the guy not just for being a tremendous and intimidating midfielder, but because he might’ve kept all sorts of items in his dense beard.
Everton — Come on. Too easy.
Leicester City — This one’s tricky via our rules, as he’s won the league with two different teams and has spent longer with the second one but N’Golo Kante made his name on the Foxes’ miracle title team. In time, he may be looked at as a player who revolutionized or at least brilliantly refined his position. If you must have another name, pretend I chose Kasper Schmeichel.
Liverpool — This one may surprise given the amount of attacking and eye-catching talent to roam Anfield, but there are few players I enjoyed watching more than Martin Skrtel. I once saw a cartoon image of him eating nails out of a cereal bowl and considered for a moment that it might be part of his diet.
Manchester City — Tricky one, this. James Milner at this point seems destined to be remembered as a Liverpool man, don’t you think? Ultimately, I’m going to overlook how slimy agent Dimitry Seluk tried to derail my love for Yaya Toure, one of the characters of the game with an almost unrivaled skill set. Also, the birthday cake thing is still pretty funny.
Manchester United — Roy Keanejust over Nemanja Vidic.
Newcastle United — A tough one for me, who has found appeal with a number of players to don the black and white stripes. Alan Shearer’s legend helped shape my love for the game and Shay Given performing well above his size makes him high on the list. But for some reason the cerebral and physical play of club leader Fabricio Coloccini makes him my favorite player in the world. I didn’t say I was normal.
Norwich City — Shout out to Nathan Redmond, but I can’t get the early season heroics of 30-going-on-50 striker Teemu Pukki out of my mind here. Emi Buendia has a shot here if Norwich can stay up and he doesn’t bolt for another club.
Sheffield United — ITough one here, as Blades spent only three PL season prior to this one and two were when I was in middle school. I like John Lundstram over club heroes Phil Jagielka and Billy Sharp.
Southampton — Tough one here as Saints have had so many players shine for them only to become firmly associated with other clubs. I loved Virgil van Dijk back to his Celtic days but he’s undoubtedly Liverpool at this point. Give me Adam Lallana and a pair of crossed fingers that he returns to St. Mary’s to remind us of the man who scored 59 times with 48 assists after coming out of the vaunted Saints academy.
Tottenham Hotspur — I’d love to force Clint Dempsey in here but that’s a Fulham man, man. And I’ve got a lot of time for Heung-min Son, too. But I’m going to give an edge to Robbie Keane over his strike partner Jermain Defoe.
Watford — Show me a man who looks like he enjoys sandwiches as much as the rest of us but has a century of goals between the Championship and Premier League and I’ll be challenged to say I like someone more than Troy Deeney. American bias, sure, but Jay DeMerit‘s story of being ignored by MLS sides out of college and knocking on doors around England en route to a Man of the Match performance in a Premier League promotion-clinching win is chest-thumping stuff.
West Ham United — Bit of a strange one here. Michael Carrick was a beauty and an academy guy but you’re not going to mistake him for anything other than Man Utd. I’m going with Sporting KC’s Kiwi center back Winston Reid as the player I’ve most admired during my time watching the Hammers.
Wolverhampton Wanderers — Big Raul Jimenez gets my nod. The best active player in North America.
Like the majority of us, MLS players are limited in his opportunities to find live soccer.
The (social) distance between them didn’t stop isolated Montreal Impact players and Seattle Sounders midfielder Miguel Ibarra from getting in some touches in a challenge inspired by Atlanta United boss Frank de Boer (and, really, a quality PR team).
Whether you call it juggling or keep-ups, you won’t deny that the “ball” is pretty clever given the coronavirus-challenged times.
Let’s begin in Quebec, where Thierry Henry led his men through juggling and “passing” (presumably) taped-up toilet paper rolls to each other via video on Tuesday.
CONCACAF has suspended play for a month, while UEFA postponed all fixtures next week ahead of a meeting to discuss plans for both club and international European competitions including the Champions League and Europa League.