Barcelona closed the gap with Sevilla to just a point as they battered a lowly Eibar side 4-0 at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium late on Sunday.
Former Villareal youngster Denis Suarez triggered the onslaught just after the half-hour mark, before the famed ‘MSN’ triumvirate bagged a goal each to round off a convincing outing for Luis Enrique’s men. However, it was not all rosy for the visitors as the Catalans lost their midfield lynchpin Sergio Busquets to injury midway in the first half, sidelining him for atleast a month.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
#1 Barcelona hitting the throttle again
Following two subpar games in the opening two matches of the year, there was talk about Barcelona no longer being the best team in Spain. Their form had taken a nosedive and they rode their luck on the magic of Lionel Messi. However, since the past four games, all such talks have died down.
The Catalans are looking like their fierce self again, firing on all cylinders. Although the first-half here was a tad poor, the La Liga holders hit back stronger after the break, with Messi, Suarez and Neymar all finding the net.
Despite missing some key players, Barcelona put on a dominant show and continued their upward surge.
#2 Messi steps up to the plate
With Andres Iniesta still recovering and on the sidelines, and Busquets joining him in the treatment room, Barca’s midfield was lacking the creative force. But cometh the hour, cometh the man, Lionel Messi stepped into the breach and filled in.
The Argentine maestro played Iniesta’s role as well as his own. He was once again the chief creator for his side, conjuring up chances for Neymar and Suarez, both of whom were guilty of wasting several of their chances. Arda Turan was also presented with a chance to get on the scoresheet, but the Turkish international too, couldn’t make it count.
Barcelona may have made up for all the lost opportunities in the second half, but Messi once again proved he’s the heart and soul of this team.
#3 Pedro Leon impresses for Eibar
Forgotten Spanish talent Pedro Leon was one of the better players going forward for Eibar as they threatened on a few instances. Though the defending champions dominated for much of the game, it didn’t stop their opposition from making attempts goalwards, and much of it came through the 30-year old alone.
The former Real Madrid man kept the creative juices flowing through the home side, creating chances as well as trying his own luck. Pedro put in an inviting cross for Adrian to head home, but an offside call went against him. He then had a late effort himself, but saw ter Stegen pull off an amazing save to protect the clean-sheet.
Amidst the disappointing performance, the Spaniard showed that even at a less glamorous side, he hasn’t lost his footballing pedigree.
#4 Eibar gave in eventually
For all the resolve and threat in the first half, Eibar eventually succumbed to the increasing pressure from the mighty visitors. Barcelona took control of the game after the break with more potency and more directness, to which Eibar had absolutely no answer.
Eibar spent much of the second period in their own half, being clamped down on by their relentless visitors. Pedro Leon appeared to have given the home fans something to cheer about, but an offside call quickly brought down the cheers.
Centre-back Lejeune was at fault for a poor clearance which saw Suarez pounce on the opportunity. All this and much more contributed to Eibar’s downfall, as they were clinically beaten in the second 45 minutes.
#5 Neymar and Suarez need to up the ante
With Lionel Messi striking the ball left, right and centre, his attacking counterparts Neymar and Suarez have been somewhat left in the shade this season. Although both bagged a goal apiece in the game, there were several chances they spurned earlier in the game.
Neymar had another frustrating evening where he squandered a few good chances, whereas Suarez rifled a sitter over the bar in the first half, much to his disbelief. The missed chances are very uncharacteristic of players who have been blowing teams away ever since the ‘MSN’ was formed.
Messi’s rich vein of form keeps Barca ticking, but if they are to win a couple of more trophies this season, he can’t do it alone. Neymar and Suarez need to up their game.