Lionel Messi summoned another mesmerising performance as Barcelona breezed to a 3-0 win over Juventus in their UEFA Champions League Group D opener at the Nou Camp.
Messi scored twice and set up his side’s second for Ivan Rakitic as Ernesto Valverde’s men capitalised on some dismal defending by the visitors to claim some degree of revenge for last season’s quarter-final loss.
Below, we analyse the key talking points from Barca’s win over Juventus.
Messi makes it look easy
Is there any end to Lionel Messi’s talents? The answer is probably not, with the Argentine delivering yet another sensational performance as he reached a minor milestone by scoring his first (and second) career goal past iconic Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon.
Perhaps the most outrageous thing about Messi is how simple he makes it look.
When he received possession before his first goal, for example, there seemed to be little danger. But then he produced a swift and subtle change in direction, a quick exchange of passes with Luis Suarez, instant control and a promptly released shot which rolled inches inside the far post, giving Gigi Buffon little chance to react, never mind attempt to save it.
The second goal was similar. Running onto a pass from Andres Iniesta in full stride, around 30 yards from goal, everyone knew he was going to cut inside onto his trusty left foot. But knowing what he’ll do and stopping it are very different propositions, and Messi took out two defenders with a subtle feint to open up space for another shot which left Buffon standing.
All his teammates could do was get out of the way, stand, watch and applaud. And so should the rest of us.
Dembele struggles to ignite the right
It may be churlish to point out a negative after a convincing Barcelona victory against last season’s Champions League finalists, but Ousmane Dembele delivered a pretty unconvincing display on his full Barca debut.
The 20 year-old Frenchman clearly possesses some highly impressive attributes, notably his ability to penetrate defences with direct and speedy running which was demonstrated in the early stages, firstly as he won the game’s opening corner and then excited fans with a burst which beat two defenders.
But, on this occasion at least, he was poor in his end product and offered little in associative play, with several fast-paced one-touch passing moves breaking down when they reached Dembele.
On this showing, the young Frenchman’s skill set did not look suited to Barca’s possession-based style of play – his first touch was often poor, and he looks like the kind of player who excels when he has space to run into rather than receiving the ball to feet.
True, the same could be said of Luis Suarez and he has made a major success of his time at Barcelona, but for now it’s clear that Dembele and his teammates face a fairly lengthy period of adjustment before we can expect to see the best of him.
Pjanic makes Juve tick
Is there a more underrated player in world football than Miralem Pjanic? The Bosnian midfielder is by no means one of the biggest stars at Juventus, but he is responsible for making the team tick rather than more recognisable names Paolo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain or Giorgio Chiellini.
Occupying a key position in the centre of the field, Pjanic is always willing to receive possession, rarely squanders it when he is given the ball, and shows good positional sense to knit his team together.
He had more touches of the ball than any other Juventus player during a first half which his team largely controlled until the very final seconds, when Messi’s brilliance gave Barca the lead, and although the margin of defeat was eventually conclusive that was certainly not his fault.
At the age of 27 Pjanic is in the prime of his career and although he is rarely talked about, he should be regarded as one of the very best in his position.