Messi continues his 'crisis' as Real Madrid look for first win in Lyon

Poor Leo Messi continued to stumble along on Tuesday night, still haunted by his lonely, desperate crisis of confidence; the beginning of the end of his career, the ghoulish ‘ooooooo’ in 'doomed', the despair of a player who knows the goose of his talent has been well and truly cooked.

Having only been able to respond to the omniscient critics who have accused him of being in the most terrible of form with a hat-trick against Mallorca on Saturday, Messi could again only manage another measly three goals against Plzen to put Barcelona through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

Of course, the Catalan press tried to cover up this woeful sequence of matches with praise. But it was so, so faint. So faint. “This guy is a beast” boasted the front cover of Wednesday’s Sport, fooling nobody. Aside from the paper’s poor, gullible readers perhaps. “All those who criticised Leo when he went three matches without scoring had better go and hide. It’s a mortal sin to doubt the number one in the world,” scoffed Josep Maria Casanovas.

There was similar, sad bravado in Mundo Deportivo with a confused sounding Santi Nolla complaining bitterly that “I don’t understand how there are no consequences for anyone saying that Messi was in crisis. There are people who have decided to deceive rather that accept the clear truth.”

Aside from this desperate attempt to hide the reality from the rechargeable torch of justice, the other news of the night was Valencia picking up a 3-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen, taking the lead in just nine seconds thanks to an effort from Jonas, one of the fastest goals in Champions League history.

The victory in Mestalla keeps Valencia very much alive in the group, just three points behind Chelsea at the top with two games to go. However that wasn’t enough to stop Unai Emery being called a donkey by some Valencia supporters. His crime? Replacing Sofiane Feghouli with Pablo Piatti in the second half. The swine.

Wednesday sees Real Madrid back in Lyon for what feels like their hundredth match with the French side in the last five years. Once again, they will be trying to win a game of football in Stade Gerland, something they have thus far failed to manage. The forces of Mordor are in France with one or two players missing from the squad through injury, but José Mourinho revealed that he is not too fussed. “Last year if we travelled without Carvalho, Marcelo, Kaká and Arbeloa then we’d have a big, big, big problem.”

A win for Real Madrid and a slip-up from Ajax would see the Spanish side as group winners after just four games, enabling Mourinho’s men to take it easy in the final two matches and even give a run-out to poor Esteban Granero - a footballer who should be ringing his agent every hour looking for a new gig.

Villarreal are also lacking one or two first teamers - six to be exact - but don’t really have the strength in depth to cover such deficiencies, so could be in for a hammering by Manchester City in El Madrigal, despite the English side's Champions League performances to date being more flimsy than any item of IKEA furniture constructed by yours truly.

“The injuries of the past week were just the tip of the iceberg, but it was nothing new” complained Villarreal coach, Juan Carlos Garrido on the newly knackedness of Marcos Senna, Cani, Cristian Zapata and Giuseppe Rossi. “The only way to face it is to fight to the death for every ball so the absences aren’t noticeable.”

It’s no wonder that Owen Hargreaves didn’t travel with Roberto Mancini’s men in what could well be a rather feisty encounter on Spain’s east coast.

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