Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez produced a finishing masterclass as Barcelona launched a second-half blitz at Real Betis to extend their lead at the top of the LaLiga table to 11 points.
Ivan Rakitic started the ball rolling as the hour-mark approached while Messi and Suarez joined him on the scoresheet within the next 10 minutes.
The Argentina international saved his best for the last 10 minutes, adding a superb individual effort and then setting up Suarez for his second in similar fashion to help Barca claim a sixth successive league win courtesy of a 5-0 romp.
Here are the ratings:
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: Had little to do but did it with assurance, and used the ball with his feet more than usual. 6
Nelson Semedo: Occasionally conceded too much space down his flank by getting out of position, and still doesn’t look quite the answer at right-back. Plenty of attacking intent but the other side of his game looks lacking. 6
Gerard Pique: Imperious in defence, mopping up everything Betis threw at him around the edge of the box, and outstanding in possession, always choosing the right pass to keep his team moving. 8
Thomas Vermaelen: Performed solidly enough until his injury jinx struck again, pulling up with a hamstring strain towards the end of the first-half. 6
Jordi Alba: Bundle of energy down the left wing but less of an attacking threat than usual in recent weeks. Still perfectly solid though. 7
Sergi Roberto: Excellent. Started on the right of midfield but soon moved more centrally and had Barca’s first chance by striding forward to shoot over. Continued to take the game to Betis, showing greater confidence in his playmaking skills, and is maturing into an outstanding performer. 8
Sergio Busquets: Kept quiet by the attentions of Joaquin for the first 50 minutes, but he gradually became a stronger presence and did brilliantly to win the ball and release Messi for the decisive second goal which effectively broke the game. 7
Ivan Rakitic: Fine all-round performance. Did a good job defensively, regularly breaking up dangerous Betis attacks early on, and later on showed attacking threat by sending a long-range shot too close to Adan before later storming forward to net the opener. Also delivered an excellent cross for Suarez’s goal. 8
Andre Gomes: A regular outlet in midfield, showing his class with some smooth touches. Didn’t always use the ball well but seems to be finally finding his form and growing in confidence. Replaced by Paulinho after the second goal. 6
Lionel Messi: Well shackled early on but grew into the game and showed his increasing influence by shooting into the side-netting after 30 minutes. Settled the outcome with a crunching finish before adding a brilliant second, and then rounded off a stunning second-half with a glorious assist for Suarez. At times it looks like he’s playing an entirely different sport to everyone else. 8
Luis Suarez: Brilliant demonstration of centre forward play. Turned assister for Barca’s first two chances with nice passes to Roberto and Messi. Continued that role by delivering an excellent through ball for Rakitic’s opener, before netting himself with a fine volley and completing the scoring with a crunching finish. 9
Samuel Umtiti: Came on for Vermaelen just before the break, returning to action after six weeks out, and looked like he’d never been away. Solid and serious. 7
Paulinho: Came on at the perfect time after Barca went two-up, and he had an easy task in overpowering a desperately tiring home team midfield. 7
Gerard Deulofeu: Appeared for the final ten minutes and had little impact. Maybe his last game for the club? 6
The Brazilian sustains a thigh injury and is still not match fit as Barca named their squad for the trip to Andalusia.
The La Liga leaders will face Real Betis on Sunday, although Coutinho will not travel with the squad.
He will be staying at home along with injured team mates Ousmane Dembele, Andres Iniesta, Paco Alcacer and Javier Mascherano.
Coutinho could make his debut for the Catalan club in next week’s Copa Del Rey clash against Espanyol at home.
The video below shows glimpses from the training session.
Philippe Coutinho may make his Barcelona debut against former club Espanyol in next week’s Copa del Rey second leg at the Nou Camp.
Barcelona finally brought one of the biggest transfer sagas over much of the past year to an end earlier this month after agreeing to pay a club-record £142million fee to Liverpool for the Brazilian playmaker.
A thigh injury sustained prior to his move has kept Coutinho sidelined but he could make his Barcelona bow against the club for whom he featured 16 times while on loan from Inter Milan for a few months in 2012.
Espanyol hold a surprise 1-0 lead from Wednesday’s first leg but Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde, while hoping to include Coutinho in his matchday squad for the first time, is hesitant to ink in the 25-year-old’s name for Thursday’s return fixture.
He said in quotes published on AS: “I’m reluctant to put an exact date on a start for Coutinho, but the progress of the injury is very positive. He had a small muscular problem in his quadriceps which is a particularly sensitive zone when striking the ball with power, but I hope he’s soon with us.
“Thursday is possible and I hope that today he can train with the rest of the squad.”
Valverde has more pressing concerns as he and Barcelona switch their attentions back to LaLiga, with the Catalan giants nine points clear at the top of the standings before the latest round of fixtures.
Barcelona travel to Real Betis on Sunday hoping to stretch their winning sequence in the league to six matches.
Valverde said at his pre-match press conference: “The players won’t be distracted by the second leg against Espanyol next Thursday. Ultimately, LaLiga is the competition that they are always most strongly focused on.
“The idea is to keep this winning dynamic going and to do as well as we did in the first half of the season. But Betis will not be an easy opponent to start against.
“Betis like to get the ball into the opposition’s half, and try to dominate possession. So one of the keys to the game will be dealing with the pressure that they create. It’s going to be an interesting, difficult encounter.”
Betis have won three of their last four in the Spanish top flight to move up to eighth, a position which manager Quique Setien believes affords his side some comfort ahead of the visit of Barcelona.
He told the club’s official website: “It is true that we are at a time when we are all very even in the intermediate zone of the table, a victory or a defeat will raise many positions or take them away.
“Our situation right now is one of confidence and optimism, we are facing this game at a good time that will allow us to take on everything we do and hope with great confidence, we will be brave because we have to be.”