Barcelona pummelled Eibar 3-0 to maintain pressure at the top of La Liga as Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi all scored in the same game together for the first time.
Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute after racing through down the left channel and finished well at the near post.
The France international then turned provider by deftly diverting the ball into Messi’s path inside the box with the captain applying a smart finish in the 58th minute.
And Messi then returned the favour for Suarez, squaring to the Uruguayan when slipped clean through by Griezmann on 66 minutes.
There were a number of impressive performances in Blaugrana and we start with three of them for our first talking point.
MSG SENT AND RECEIVED
There wasn’t a tremendous amount of control exerted from Barcelona in the first half as they were battered in wide positions by a cross-happy Eibar.
But in transition Barca were a tornado of touches, whirling the ball around with such speed and precision the Eibar defence was knocked off its feet.
The result was a landmark achievement for the MSG trident with Messi, Suarez and Griezmann all scoring in the same game together for the first time. Individually and as a collective, they were gripping to watch.
For all the talk of Griezmann’s disconnect, he was plugged in on Saturday and charged up Barca’s attack. Operating closer together from a positional sense helped to bind the three psychologically and Griezmann in particular profited.
He’s been the isolated kid at a new school as he’s struggled to fit in with the cool kids up top, but on the evidence of this game, he’s now welcome in the group.
Griezmann was super sharp, evidenced by his conviction to link with Suarez using an array of difficult first touches, on the turn, with the ball at mid-height or fizzed in at pace.
Goals invariably make all the difference and his tidy opener – a first La Liga away goal in eight months – certainly emboldened him.
The big positive is that he produced one of his best displays for Barca with both Messi and Suarez in the side.
The captain in particular can make even the most extravagant talents become introverted, but Griezmann flourished. The finest example of their synchronisation was in the third.
Griezmann sliced up the Eibar defence like a piece of fruit to free Messi with a delightful through-ball and the Argentine squared for Suarez to finish a sweet goal.
Barca fans will eat up more of this play that’s for sure.
DE JONG EVERYWHERE AND EVERYTHING
There’s been some debate around the utilisation of De Jong as he’s been stationed in a more advanced position to his one at Ajax, a role which saw him emerge as one of the world’s finest midfielders.
Indeed, the Dutchman wants to be the author of a game, and that usually means scripting play from the No6 position as opposed to closing off chapters in the final third.
However, the 22-year-old is now fully adjusted to his new responsibilities. He was arguably man of the match on Saturday.
It’s not hyperbole to say he was absolutely everywhere and he did practically everything.
Whether it was penetrative passing into the forward line, his relentless pressing of Eibar’s midfield or his own impeccable press resistance when bodies were flung at him, he did it all and did it all pristinely.
He can rob possession, hide the ball to protect it under pressure, dribble away to find space and can set-up attacks with gorgeous passing. De Jong can only think and play forward.
His industry caught the eye initially on Saturday, but he had everyone frothing in one passage of play in which he weighted a perfect pass out wide to Nelson Semedo, won the back the ball when it was lost then freed up Suarez for a great chance.
He and Arthur are forming quite the midfield partnership for Barcelona and this injection of youth and guile can serve the team for many years.
WELCOME BACK UMTITI
Gerard Pique’s suspension meant Samuel Umtiti made his first appearance in a Barca shirt since May 12 against Getafe some five months ago.
There were times last season when the Frenchman was negligible with his knee issues crippling the confidence of a defender once considered among the best in the world.
He’s now firmly third-choice for Barca with Clement Lenglet emerging as a fine buy, but Umtiti looked more like his old self on Saturday.
His 92.7 percent pass success rate was the second-best for Barca as was his four aerials won. Those two statistics paint his game, one of dominance in the air and composure on the ground.
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