Lionel Messi is enduring somewhat of a dry patch from dead-ball situations at Barcelona.
The Argentina captain has failed to convert his last 62 free-kicks for Barca, which is certainly a surprise given his sensational form over the last five seasons.
Since the 2016/17 campaign, Messi has fired in a total of 20 free-kicks, which is more than Juventus (15) and Paris St-Germain (13) have managed as a team.
Nevertheless, it seems La Liga clubs have found a genius way to thwart his success from set pieces of late.
Instead of setting up one wall to defend Messi’s free-kicks, a number of Spanish sides have been organising three rows of players each with a different task.
A first wall stands 10 yards from the free-kick, blocking Messi’s direct shot at goal, with four players then spread out behind covering different shooting angles.
The cunning teams also place two players on the goal line, either side of their goalkeeper.
The strategy is clearly working a treat, with Messi’s last successful free-kick coming against Osasuna back in July.
It is not only set pieces where Messi is lacking this season, nevertheless.
The Barca legend has not been at his typical, ruthless best in front of goal, only scoring four goals in his first 10 La Liga appearances of the campaign.
He has been unable to pull the Catalans out of the mess they find themselves in under Ronald Koeman, having taken just 14 points so far in 2020/21.
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Their latest setback came away at Cadiz on Saturday, where strikes from Alvaro Gimenez and Alvaro Negredo outweighed Pedro Alcala’s own goal in a shock victory for the newly-promoted outfit.
Next up for Messi and co is a Champions League clash with Juventus on Tuesday.
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