Let's get the obvious out of the way early: Leo Messi is a genius with the ball at his feet. A second-half hat-trick against Valencia proved this - as if there were any doubters. Everything that Barcelona had for the visitors to Camp Nou on Sunday night went through the Argentinian, who enjoyed free reign when VCF went down to ten men.
Lionel Messi celebrates
Truth be told, Barça had struggled in the first half. There are still some nagging doubts about certain areas of the team, which Messi's rapid-fire treble will have glossed over to some degree. The 2009/2010 squad would not be the first to win the title with a slightly off-colour line-up, and Messi is certainly resilient enough to injury and consistent in his goalscoring to take Barcelona all the way, but a few issues need to be addressed.
Starting at the back, Pep Guardiola's defensive cover looks weak. This is mostly to the manager's credit in my opinion, as he has put together a starting back four that have great understanding and bags of experience playing as a unit. When fit, the Barça back four is the best in the league. When one of the established quartet is left out, then they have to bring in Maxwell...
Thierry Henry was the most incisive of partners for Messi upon introduction as a substitute, and Bojan just doesn't look as if he will break through in the way that was expected of him. Henry was perhaps flattered by coming on fresh for the second half and facing ten men for the majority of the 45 minutes, but he was certainly more effective than Bojan -who should really go out on loan for some of next season to get some playing time under his belt.
The most positive sign from the game was for the league as a whole. The third placed team in La Liga outshone the title contenders in the first half and too the game to their opponents, and Barcelona came back for a popular victory in an entertaining match. At a time when European failure is casting doubts over the quality of the league, the game provided something for the fans and a showcase performance from Messi that everyone will be talking about on Monday morning. For half an hour at least, Messi was unstoppable and undeniably the best player in the world.