The Catalan giants showed Alaves no mercy at the Mendizorrotza as Messi, Suarez and Neymar all got on the scoresheet to smash 6 goals past their opponents for the Copa del Rey final.
Those present at the Mendizorrotza witnessed the full extent of Barcelona’s attacking prowess on Saturday. Luis Enrique’s men were ruthless in their quest to avenge that shock 1-2 defeat at the Nou Camp earlier this season and they slammed 6 past their unfortunate opponents.
It wasn’t a full strength Barcelona squad, as they were missing the like of Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta in the squad. But as the scoreline suggests, it clearly didn’t seem to bother the Catalan giants too much.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s men did put up something of a fight however. Despite fielding a weakened side, they made life difficult of Barcelona for the first 35 minutes and held their ground with some resilient defending. It took a bit of magic from Aleix Vidal and Luis Suarez to finally break through, but after they did, there was no holding the Champions back.
Suarez opened the floodgates in the 37th minute, followed by Neymar in the 40th. Messi would get on the scoresheet in the 59th minute, before defender Ruano Delgado would score an unfortunate own goal. 2 minutes later Ivan Rakitic would get in on the action, before Luis Suarez ensured he got his second of the night in the 67th minute.
‘Right-Back’ To The Sidelines
It was a near perfect performance from the Catalans, but one that ended in disaster. If having 2 center-backs injured wasn’t bad enough, Barcelona have now lost Aleix Vidal for the rest of the season after a horrid collision late in the game resulted in him breaking his ankle.
The 27-year-old is the only natural right-back in the Barcelona squad and was in superb form. In a mere 11 appearances this term in all competitions, Vidal has 2 goals and 5 assists to his name, including a superb pass to set up Luis Suarez on Saturday.
The former Sevilla fullback was only just clawing his way back into the starting XI after being frozen out by Luis Enrique early in the season and this comes as a huge blow to both Barcelona and the player and at the worst possible time in the season.
With the Champions League Round Of 16 matches edging nearer by the day, it remains to see how Luis Enrique set up his defence for their clash against PSG, especially when the likes of Pique and Mascherano already absent from the squad.
No Stopping Them Now
With 41 goals between them in the La Liga, there is not stopping the MSN now. Neymar has had a difficult season this term, and has only 6 goals to his name including the one he scored against Alaves, while Messi has 17 and Suarez has 18 and leads the goalscoring charts.
However, the Brazilian has recently begun to find his best form, and his goal was his 95th in Barcelona colours. In doing so, he surpasses club legend and fellow countryman Ronaldinho, who only managed 94 in his 5 seasons with the club.
Messi and Suarez have been nothing short of Messiahs to Luis Enrique’s side, coming up with the last minute winners and important point saving equalizers in what has been a difficult season with regard to injury to key players in the squad. They occupy second and first place charts ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Their form and fitness will be key for the remainder of the season, especially if they are to win back the Champions League from Real Madrid and defend their title from their arch rivals.
Strength In Depth
Mathieu, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes all started the match and put in convincing performances. Luis Enrique has had to constantly rotate his squad this season due to injuries and continuous games, which hasn’t always yielded in positive results.
In this case it was injuries to Mascherano, Pique, Rafinha and Arda Turan. Enrique also thought it best to rest Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba and of course, Sergio Busquets’ return to the middle of the park after an injury lay off was a huge boost for the Blaugrana.
As we approach the business end of the season, Barcelona will likely find themselves relying more and more on their reserves and while they managed to impress against Alaves, it remains to be seen whether the Champions have enough mental strength, character and leadership among their reserves to step up when the going gets tough.
Hitting Top Gear
It would suffice to say that this season has been an extremely disappointing one for Barcelona’s standards. Though they have booked themselves a place in the Copa del Rey Final, they currently sit at second place in the La Liga, a point behind Real Madrid who have 2 games in hand.
Out of 22 games played in the league so far, they have lost 2 and drawn 4. Unacceptable statistics for those at the Nou Camp and their injury troubles over the course of the current campaign haven’t made things any easier on the Luis Enrique’s men.
However, since the start of the year, we have slowly begun to see some vintage Barcelona. In 5 League games this year, they have scored 20 and conceded only twice during that time. As we approach the business end of the season, Barcelona have seemingly taken them game to the next level.
This return to form will have to be maintained and this excellent run will need to continue. With tricky fixtures against the likes of Atletico, Sporting Gijon and Celta Vigo coming up, the Champions can’t afford to get complacent if they wish to defend their title.