Nelson Semedo resembles Dani Alves and other things learned as Lionel Messi inspires Barca to 6-1 win

Andy West 20/09/2017
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Lionel Messi added four more goals to his soaring early season tally as a much-changed Barcelona maintained their 100 percent start to La Liga by routing Eibar 6-1.

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid.

Here are three things learned from the clash…

MESSI, MESSI, MESSI, MESSI

This was a strange game. Eibar were the better team – by far – in the opening 20 minutes and had more shots on goal than their opponents, but still ended up losing 6-1. The reason was very simple: Lionel Messi.

The Argentine was, once again, simply sublime. After opening the scoring with a penalty he decided to add an open play hat-trick – and ‘decided to’ feels about right because, as Espanyol boss Quique Sanchez Flores once quipped, it sometimes appears that Messi could score a hat-trick in every game if he wanted to.

His second goal was particularly impressive, as he raced to the edge of the area under heavy pressure and despite falling off balance somehow managed to guide the ball inches inside the left hand post, passing the ball into the net rather than shooting it.

And as the dust settles, it’s worth noting something which would be truly remarkable if we weren’t talking about Messi: with five league games played, he’s already scored nine goals. Oh yes…plus two in the Champions League. Against Juventus.

SEMEDO SETTLING IN

Aside from Messi, the most notable performance for Barca came from right-back Nelson Semedo, who is looking increasingly capable of solving the dilemma presented by the departure of Dani Alves in the summer of 2016.

Indeed, in the way that Semedo calls upon endless supplies of energy to raid up and down the right wing, diligent in defence and daring in attack, there’s more than a hint of resemblance between the Portuguese international and the legend he is hoping to replace.

On this occasion Semedo made arguably the most important single contribution to the game by winning the penalty which opened the scoring and changed the course of the action, and he has surely now already firmly established himself as Ernesto Valverde’s first choice on the right-hand side of defence. And although there’s an awfully long way to go before he can even begin to match Alves’s achievements, he’s made a good start.

Lionel Messi with defender Nelson Semedo

Lionel Messi with defender Nelson Semedo

BARCA STILL FAR FROM PERFECT

Barcelona are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga with five wins out of five, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are unbeatable because their results have been far better than their performances.

The hosts were significantly inferior to Eibar in the opening 20 minutes of this game and had a great save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen – or should that be a glaring miss by Sergi Enrich – to thank for keeping the score level.

Messi’s penalty after 20 minutes was their first shot of any description, and it was fortunate that Paulinho soon followed up by powering home a header from a corner to take the game away from Eibar.

The second half was a different story as Messi ran riot, but there’s absolutely no room for complacency for Barca after two consecutive games against modest opposition – Getafe on Saturday, Eibar on Tuesday – when they were outplayed in the opening stages. Against better opposition, they may not get off the hook so easily.

Enersto Valverde won't be sitting too comfortably despite Barca's stunning start

Enersto Valverde won’t be sitting too comfortably despite Barca’s stunning start

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The highest compliment you can pay is to say that he played like Lionel Messi - player ratings as Barcelona batter Eibar

Andy West 20/09/2017
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Lionel Messi added four more goals to his soaring early season tally as a much-changed Barcelona maintained their 100 percent start to La Liga by routing Eibar 6-1.

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also netted for the second consecutive game as Barca stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to seven points over Real Madrid.

Here is our player ratings from the clash…

BARCELONA

Ter Stegen 8 – Made some great saves including, crucially, stopping Sergi Enrich’s shot after just three minutes.

Semedo 8 – Barca’s second best player, regularly speeding forward and winning the penalty to open the scoring.

Pique 5 – Beaten for Eibar’s goal and produced some loose touches. Currently below his best.

Mascherano 6 – Solid showing from the gritty Argentine on a rare starting spot.

Digne 6 – Decent enough job, without providing anything like the attacking drive of rested Jordi Alba.

Paulinho 7 – The most unexpected new star. Tidy in possession, scored a great header and provided Messi with an assist.

Busquets 7 – Typically composed display in front of his back four.

Iniesta 6 – Flitted in and out of the game before being replaced after an hour.

Deulofeu 5 – Started brightly but got gradually worse and was briefly jeered by a small section of fans.

Messi 10 – The highest compliment you can pay is to say that he played like Lionel Messi.

Denis 7 – Quiet in the first half but sparked to life in the second as Eibar tired, scoring a well-taken goal.

Messi and Paulinho celebrate

Messi and Paulinho celebrate

SUBS

Roberto 7 – Plenty of drive and energy, always looking to support the attack.

Rakitic 6 – Kept it simple in midfield as Busquets’s replacement.

Vidal 7 – Full of running after coming on for Deulofeu and teed up Messi’s last goal with a perfect pass.

EIBAR

Dmitrovic 6 – Made a couple of great stops to deny Messi but couldn’t do much to save his team.

Arbilla 6 – Occasionally exposed in defence but tidy coming forward, hitting the post late on.

Galvez 5 – Some well-timed interventions but conceded a silly penalty and struggled – understandably – against Messi.

Oliveira 5 – Didn’t do enough to stem the Messi-inspired flow of Barca attacks.

Junca 8 – Eibar’s outstanding player. Contained Deulofeu and delivered a great cross for the visitors’ goal.

Capa 5 – Playing in a more advanced position than usual but couldn’t exert much influence.

Jordan 4 – A weak link for Eibar in midfield. The game largely passed him by.

Garcia 5 – A reliable presence in Eibar’s strong opening stages but overrun in the second half.

Escalante 6 – Excellent in the first half, linking midfield and attack cleverly, but faded after Barca went ahead.

Inui 6 – Some nice touches from the technically excellent winger, but inconsistent final ball.

Enrich 6 – Scored a well-taken goal but will wish he’d given Eibar the lead with a wonderful early chance.

Messi runs alongside David Junca

Messi runs alongside David Junca

SUBS

Pena 5 – Pretty anonymous after appearing for the final quarter.

Charles 6 – Added some bite to the Eibar attack late on and was unlucky to hit the bar.

Rivera 5 – Came on with the game decided and couldn’t get involved.

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Man United scout Roma prodigy Lorenzo Pellegrini while Real Madrid move on from David De Gea

David Cooper 20/09/2017
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Roma midfield Lorenzo Pellegrini (R)

The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines today.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

LORENZO PELLEGRINI

Man United are keeping tabs on Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, reports Corriere dello Sport.

According to the Italian daily, Jose Mourinho sent one of his chief scouts to watch Roma’s clash with Verona last weekend with the €30million-rated Pellegrini singled out.

RATING: 5/10

SPORT360 VERDICT

That game was actually Pellegrini’s first start for Roma but the performance gave you every indication that he’s an archetypal Mourinho central-midfielder in that he’s efficient.

The 21-year-old is very much viewed as carrying the torch of a Roman legacy after the retirement of Francesco Totti and it’s difficult to envisage the club allowing him to leave.

KEPA

Real Madrid have moved on from Man United stopper David De Gea and will now instead look at Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa as a long-term replacement for Keylor Navas.

According to Marca, no agreement has been reached with the 22-year-old while Athletic have spent the last 10 months trying to agree a new deal with the Spaniard as his current contract ends at the conclusion of this season.

RATING: 7/10

SPORT360 VERDICT

United fans will breathe a collective sigh of relief at this rumour but with the apparent contract talks stalling it seems only a matter of when not if Real make their intention known for Kepa.

Athletic are resigned to losing him but want to raise his release clause from €10million to €65million to at least allow them the opportunity to reinvest.

Kepa in action for the Spanish Under-21s

Kepa in action for the Spanish Under-21s

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