Barcelona 4-0 Sevilla: Ernesto Valverde has night to remember, Lionel Messi is in motion

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A quartet of fine individual goals, including Lionel Messi’s 2019/20 opener, saw ruthless La Liga champions Barcelona roar into the international break with an ominous 4-0 victory against Sevilla, despite finishing with nine men.

Momentum gained via the midweek, come-from-behind victory against Inter Milan in the Champions League was built upon at Camp Nou on Sunday. Not even the 87th-minute dismissal of debutant Ronald Araujo for a pull on substitute Javier Hernandez, then subsequent red card for a protesting Ousmane Dembele, could truly sour the night.

A stupendous few days for Uruguay hit man Luis Suarez continued with a sublime 27th-minute bicycle kick to open the scoring against Julen Lopetegui’s sixth-placed visitors.

The rampaging runs of Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal – selected in place of Spain anchor man Sergio Busquets – were rewarded when he slid home a quick-fire strike from Brazil conductor Arthur’s penetrative pass, before France winger Dembele – in for countryman Antoine Griezmann – skilfully checked back and slotted into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 with 10 minutes left of the opening period.

The Catalans then kept their visitors at arm’s length, prior to Argentine icon Messi netting a textbook 78th-minute free-kick to move onto 37 goals in 38 games versus the visitors. This result placed Barca into second spot, while Sevilla – who will point to more missed chances from new striker Luuk de Jong – have now lost three of their last four top-flight fixtures.

Here are the talking points:

VALVERDE’S MASTERPLAN

Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde is still not likely to win a popularity contest in Catalonia anytime soon.

Sunday’s orchestration, however, displayed both bravery and bravura in ample amounts. That a sharp Sevilla were so convincingly downed should have guaranteed acclaim rather than opprobrium, for one evening at least.

Commitment to Barca’s sacrosanct 4-3-3 formation was probably behind the bold call to bench €120 million France striker Antoine Griezmann, at the expense of flying compatriot Dembele. A pursuit of added dynamism caused the juncture point of Busquets being dropped in favour of Vidal.

Both additions scored and were among Barca’s better performers. Dembele, in particular, would have relished a first La Liga goal since January.

A balanced, yet physical, midfield also aided a third clean sheet in 10 2019/20 matches.

Even Pique’s late booking ensured he will be suspended for October 19’s trip to Eibar, rather than risk missing this month’s opening El Clasico against leaders Real Madrid. This will make up for some of the late damage inflicted by Araujo and Dembele’s dismissals.

A double-header against Inter and Sevilla looked daunting in the wake of defeat at Granada. Impressive wins herald a warm winter for Barca.

MESSI IS GETTING IN MOTION

Another notable aspect of this Barca victory was how it was earned with Messi on the periphery.

Of course, the term ‘periphery’ becomes redefined when the game’s greatest player is involved. He was not directly involved in any of the opening three goals, yet he still ended the match with the most; touches (94), shots (six), dribbles (10) and passes (66).

This is effectively pre-season for the 31-year-old after the summer’s disruptive calf problem. He pulled the strings in the background as Dembele, Arthur and Suarez – with a third world-class goal in two appearances – shone brightest in the first half.

An air of anticipation then grew after the break. It was sated in some style when Messi curled in a wonderful free-kick to kick off his 2019/20 scoring.

This was, then, a show of growing strength from the Argentine and his team-mates.

SEVILLA COME UP SHORT… AGAIN

Sevilla came to Camp Nou in the mood to play.

They even edged the attempts count by 16-15 over their exalted opponent. The telling statistic, however, came from the fact Barca registered a superior eight attempts on target to the visitors’ four.

Goalless De Jong was, again, the defining figure. A header that bounced over came moments before Suarez’s staggering opener, while he hit the post soon after the restart when excellently positioned.

Their earlier defeat to Real Madrid painted a similar picture of punishment following profligacy.

The sales of Pablo Sarabia and Wissam Ben Yedder continue to sting.

That’s also nine goals conceded by Lopetegui during two trips to Camp Nou within a year. At least the sack won’t instantly follow this time for the ex-Los Blancos supremo.

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Spectacular Luis Suarez was key to nine-man Barcelona success over Sevilla

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Luis Suarez scored a spectacular overhead kick to inspire nine-man Barcelona to a 4-0 LaLiga victory over Sevilla at the Nou Camp.

Suarez opened the scoring in acrobatic fashion in the 27th minute and goals from Arturo Vidal, Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi – his first of the season from a trademark free-kick – sealed a comfortable victory.

The win was Barca’s fourth in a row in all competitions since a shock 2-0 loss at Granada on September 21 and lifts Ernesto Valverde’s side to second place in LaLiga, two points behind leaders Real Madrid.

However, the win was marred by the late dismissals of Dembele and Ronald Araujo, the former receiving a second yellow card for dissent after last man Araujo had been sent off for hauling down Javier Hernandez.

Sevilla began the game brightly and were left to rue a number of missed chances, with striker Luuk De Jong the main culprit.

De Jong saw his first-time shot superbly saved at his near post by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen after 11 minutes but should have broken the deadlock seven minutes later when he fired wide from six yards with the goal at his mercy.

Messi then curled a free-kick over the crossbar before De Jong squandered another good chance, heading a cross from Lucas Ocampos into the ground and over the bar from close range.

Moments later Suarez made the visitors pay the price for their profligacy, the Uruguay international connecting perfectly with an overhead kick to dispatch Nelson Semedo’s cross into the bottom corner.

Vidal doubled the lead five minutes later when he slid in to convert a pin-point pass from Arthur as Sevilla players appealed in vain for offside and Dembele soon made it 3-0 with a delightful right-footed finish from 12 yards out.

Sevilla’s miserable evening in front of goal continued as Nolito headed a cross from Jesus Navas tamely at Ter Stegen before half-time and the interval did nothing to change matters.

Five minutes into the second half, De Jong dispossessed Arthur on the edge of the penalty area but could only hit the post with a right-footed shot and it was no surprise when the 29-year-old was substituted with 25 minutes remaining.

After two previous attempts Messi finally found his range 12 minutes from time and curled a superb free-kick beyond Tomas Vaclik to open his account for the season.

That should have been the signal for the game to peter out but Araujo brought down fellow substitute Hernandez on the edge of the area as he attempted to run through on goal and was sent off.

Dembele, who had been booked early in the second half, was quick to remonstrate with the referee but appeared to overstep the mark and was shown a second yellow card.

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Ernesto Valverde questions Barcelona’s two late red cards in Sevilla win

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Ernesto Valverde questioned both of Barcelona’s red cards that came late on in their 4-0 thrashing of Sevilla at the Nou Camp.

First-half goals from Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ousmane Dembele put the home side in charge before Lionel Messi added a fourth as Barca remained two points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid.

But they ended the game with nine men as debutant Ronald Araujo and Dembele both saw red, the former for a professional foul and the France winger for dissent in a game that also had a total of eight yellow cards

Valverde said, according to AS: “It is the referee’s criteria when assessing fouls. Everyone always has their opinion, but it has been a clean match.

“I am sorry for the dismissal of Araujo because it was his debut. I did not think (it was a red card) and Dembele is a mystery.”

Dembele’s second booking came after he reportedly said something to the referee.

Valverde is unaware what was said but hopes he will not be given a longer suspension, with his side hosting Real Madrid in a fortnight.

The Barca boss added: “It is difficult to get words from Dembele in Spanish. I haven’t talked to him but I don’t think it’s too long a suspension.”

Messi’s goal was his first of the season in his fifth appearance in all competitions.

Valverde said: “Leo grabs goals and when he finds form he will score more, but it is good for us that there are other players who score goals.”

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui felt his side failed to take advantage of some early chances.

“We have faced (the match) with a lot of ambition and personality,” he said on Sevilla’s website.

“The first 35 minutes were totally ours with many chances, but in such a scenario when you don’t score the law of football happens.

“We were very good, but the first goal has done us a lot of damage.

“Now it is time to analyse the game and take advantage of this break to reset.”

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