Expectations on Lionel Messi too high, says Xavi Hernandez

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Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez believes too much is expected of four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi after the Argentine scored the winner to maintain Barca’s title hopes with a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Messi had been on the receiving end of some fierce criticism in Spain as he failed to find the net as Barca slumped to three consecutive defeats in three different competitions over the past 10 days to all but end their chances of ending the season with a major trophy.

“Today Messi decided the game again,” said the Spanish international.

“A lot of the time people demand too much of him. We need to leave him in peace and let him work.”

A fourth straight defeat seemed on the cards when Aritz Aduriz put Athletic ahead five minutes into the second-half, but two goals in as many minutes sealed the points for Barca as Pedro Rodriguez tapped home from close range before Messi rifled in a free-kick from the edge of the area.

Victory moved Barca into second place, two points ahead of Real Madrid having played a game more, but still four points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining.

Xavi, though, insisted they will fight until the end to try and defend their La Liga title in the hope that both Atletico and Real unexpectantly drop points before Barca host Atletico on the final day of the season.