Against depleted opponents, it was expected that Ronald Koeman’s in-form side would take advantage of Atletico Madrid’s slip at the top of the table on Sunday by claiming maximum points.
They did so - but only just. Ousmane Dembele struck with just seconds left.
📷 Lionel Messi: Match Snapshot
The first half was not a typical Messi performance as he struggled to get on the ball or have a decisive impact on the game. Indeed, he had a free kick wide and also got in the way of Dembele as the pair sought to get on a cross from Antoine Griezmann.
Although Messi fired a second-half free kick into the wall, he would soon build momentum and became increasingly active for the hosts. With around 15 minutes remaining, he bent a trademark shot just wide of the target.
When the goal came, it was scored by Dembele off a Frenkie de Jong cross flicked on by Ronald Araujo.
〽️ Lionel Messi: Rating Week-on-Week
Before the international break, Messi’s form was absolutely inhuman. He scored a perfect 10 FC Rating in successive matches and had been over 9 in six of his previous seven outings.
By contrast, his 7 FC Rating in this encounter was distinctly low key.
Messi: What Next?
On Saturday, Barcelona will have potentially their biggest game of the season as they travel to Real Madrid for El Clasico. It is a game that is sure to have a massive bearing on the title race, and it is one in which Messi will be expected to be at his best.
Had he been booked in this encounter, he would have missed that game, and perhaps that offers some explanation for what was a less spectacular display than is often witnessed from the great Argentine.