Barcelona lost El Clasico, falling 3-1 at home against La Liga leaders Real Madrid on Saturday, leaving the Catalans languishing in 12th place.

It’s still early in the season, but worryingly they are winless in three league matches, having drawn 1-1 with Sevilla and fallen 1-0 at Getafe. When you’re not picking up points, the big questions get asked quicker and they don’t come bigger than Lionel Messi.

The club’s captain and talisman is not playing badly, and had one of his better games this season in the Clasico, but has not scored from open play in six, with only two penalties to his name. It is obvious he has not found his place yet in new coach Ronald Koeman’s set up.

Playing in the hole against Madrid, Philippe Coutinho shunted to the left and Ansu Fati ahead of him, with Pedri on the right, seemed to suit him better than in any other game so far this season.

“He was back to being the Messi of always, active, participating and always dangerous,” wrote Mundo Deportivo . “(Thibaut) Courtois denied his goal, but he had a great game.”

Real Madrid’s Belgian stopper was alert at his near post when Messi left Ramos for dead with a lightning quick turn in the box, the Argentine’s best moment in the game.

Messi’s most important contribution, however, was a perfect lofted pass for Jordi Alba, which led to Barcelona’s equaliser. The No 10 has played countless of these balls in his career and his precision, combined with the pace of the full-back, means nobody can stop them.

Alba fired in a low cut-back, as he so often does, and Fati made sure he got on the end of it to level after Federico Valverde’s opener.

It is noteworthy that Messi isn’t getting multiple scoring chances in each game. Despite his other fine and varied contributions, if he can no longer score at the same clip he has done for the past decade, Barcelona have a big problem. Continue reading

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