Messi sparkles, Neymar falters

Messi sparkles, Neymar falters

With Lionel Messi firing on all cylinders again, Barcelona's Champions League challenge is very much alive but coach Gerardo Martino would be much happier if marquee signing Neymar was not on such patchy form.

Messi scored his eighth goal in five appearances in the latest edition of Europe's elite club competition in Wednesday's 2-1 win at home to Manchester City, which sent the Spanish champions through to the quarterfinals for the seventh straight season, 4-1 on aggregate.

It was a typically brilliant piece of skill from the Argentina forward as he dinked the ball over City goalkeeper Joe Hart in the 67th minute, his 28th goal of the season during which he has spent two months on the sidelines with a thigh injury.

Neymar started the last-16, second leg match at the Nou Camp instead of Alexis Sanchez and Pedro, who have both been on good form this term, but the Brazil forward squandered the chances that came his way and turned in a generally disappointing performance before making way for Alexis 10 minutes from time.

Out for several weeks in late January and early February with a twisted ankle, Neymar has only scored once for Barca since the turn of the year, the sixth goal in a 6-0 La Liga drubbing of minnows Rayo Vallecano.

It is hard not to think that the controversy surrounding his move from Santos in the close season, which has prompted charges of misappropriation of funds and tax evasion, and the pressure of playing for one of the world's richest clubs are having some effect on the 22-year-old.