Barça are firing on all cylinders

They are the only team to have qualified for the next round of the Champions League and top the LaLiga standings, seven points ahead of rivals Real Madrid

El 1x1 de los jugadores del Barça ante el Inter | sport

FC Barcelona supporters can feel very proud of their team. The demanding set of fixtures followed by an injury to Lionel Messi caused many to fear the worst. However one of the keys to Ernesto Valverde's team is that the absence of Messi isn't felt as much than it would under previous coaches. Luis Suarez has stepped up in Leo's absence to be that creator, that endless worker and provided his teammates with countless opportunites to get on the scoresheet.

David Salinas

@flytoapia

IN SPORT.ES

Even without Messi, Barça continue to march forward in both LaLiga and the Champions League. If the team continues along this path they'll remain a strong candidate to win every competition. If without Messi they've been winning, with him they'll be unstoppable.

Champions League: only side to qualify for next round

Even though they were drawn in "the group of death" Barça have exceeded expectations and are already into the knockout stages - and were the first team to do so in the whole competition. Three victories in their opening three matches and a draw in the last one has secured their place in the next round. They've scored the most goals (11 goals, alongside PSG) and still have two matches to go. Messi's speech about wanting to win that "beautiful trophy" continues to ring true as Barcelona look to re-establish themselves in Europe.

LALiga: Leader and seven points ahead of real Madrid

Barça, the kings of the domestic league, have gone through a third of the season and remain top of the pile. They're three points ahead of Espanyol and four ahead of Atletico. Real Madrid, the usual rivals for the title, are seven points adrift. Valverde has a 63.6% win percentage in the league and has overcome a minor stumbling block when the side drew three in a row against Girona, Athletic and Valencia as well as a loss to Levante. Since then they've only picked up victories. Sevilla, Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano being the latest victims. The only concern is if Barça had performed better in those previous matches, the league crown could already be sewn up.

the team has overcome the loss of messi

When Messi broke his arm against Sevilla, the supporters feared the worst. Sergi Roberto said: "We're worried about Messi's injury." However the team has grouped together and found another level despite the absence of the importante Argentine. They beat Real Madrid 5-1, Inter 2-0 and secured a 1-1 draw away in Italy. It feels like Barcelona have found a collective strength to replace the individual brilliance of Messi. 

Valverde and his man management

The strategy was for the group to cover the loss of Messi - and the players haven't let anyone down. Everyone has taken a step forward without their captain on the pitch and some have found their best form in a Barcelona shirt. Valverde knew how to control the potential crisis and found a balance within the team. It's no easy task to replace what Messi brings to the table.

the backup brigade have proven their worth

One of the criticisms of Barcelona in recent seasons has been the lack of squad depth behind the first eleven. This season Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Dembele and Malcom have all stepped up when called upon. Rafinha offered stability to the midfield against Madrid and Inter at the Camp Nou; Dembele was key against Rayo and Malcom, last Tuesday against Inter, put the team into the knockout stages of the Champions League. Vidal is another positive when brought on the pitch and there's been a noticeable improvement in both Semedo and Munir.

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