Barcelona routed Granada 4-1 in the La Liga on Sunday to keep the pace with league leaders Real Madrid
Barcelona kept up the pressure on fierce rivals Real Madrid as they comfortably saw off Granada with a 4-1 thrashing. Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the 44th minute before on-loan Chelsea midfielder Jeremie Boga stunned the visitors with a fine finish only 5 minutes later.
Paco Alcacer then scored the all-important goal to restore Barcelona’s lead, before a deflected goal from Ivan Rakitic and a tap-in from Neymar wrapped things up for the Catalans, who could not afford to drop points after Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 victory over Alaves earlier on Sunday.
The result means that Barcelona have maintained the 2 point gap between themselves and Real Madrid after 29 games played – although Real Madrid have a game in hand. We take a look at the key talking points from the match.
Neymar’s brilliance rewarded with 100th goal
Neymar did not have the best of starts to the 2016-17 season, as a combination of injuries and poor form led to his longest run without a goal for Barcelona. Many were worried at the displays from the Brazilian superstar, but genius does not disappear overnight.
The Barcelona winger’s performances steadily improved and despite this still not being his most prolific season, he has undoubtedly been the key to their resurgence and has arguably been their best player over the last few months.
Last night, Neymar was nothing short of magnificent. The mercurial winger made 6 key passes and completed 5 dribbles – both of which were the most of any player on the pitch, according to WhoScored.
It was also a milestone evening for the Brazilian wizard, who scored Barcelona’s 4th goal of the night and his 100th goal for the Spanish giants. A perfect way to cap off one of his best performances of the season.
Video | Neymar’s best goals for Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/mteoW5WtdL
— Catalan Edition (@CatalanEdition) April 3, 2017
Paco Alcacer could yet have an important role to play
Paco Alcacer’s €30 million move to Barcelona has not gone the way the Spanish international forward would have planned, but the 23-year old has scored some important goals for Barcelona already this season.
Restricted to just 3 starts in 13 appearances in the league, Alcacer has picked up a respectable 3 goals and 2 assists despite never really getting a consistent run in the team, and usually only coming on late to see off games.
Alcacer did not start once more but was introduced for Rafinha in the 17th minute and duly delivered. The Spaniard picked up a goal and an assist and it was his clinical finish that gave Barcelona the lead at a time when they looked nervy. Alcacer could yet have a role to play this season.
Luis Enrique: “I’m delighted with Paco Alcácer. He has given us a lot and is a player who always helps the team, even when he’s not playing”
— FC Barcelona Fl (@FCBarcelonaFl) April 2, 2017
Suarez rises to the occasion in Messi’s absence
Luis Suarez’s task of leading the line was all the more important last night as Barcelona were without Lionel Messi as the Argentinian talisman had picked up a suspension after accumulating five yellow cards.
The Uruguayan forward definitely rose to the occasion and was a constant thorn in Granada’s side. Suarez created the first real opportunity of the game when he attempted a brilliant chip that unfortunately crashed off the upright before the move broke down as Neymar was offside.
Not one to be deterred, Suarez again latched on to a simply brilliant ball from Jordi Alba to once again delightfully chip the onrushing Guillermo Ochoa and this time, the Uruguayan’s shot hit the back of the net.
It was also his assist that allowed Paco Alcacer to race past the Granada defence and score the eventual winner and Suarez went some way to showing that Barcelona can rely on another one of their brilliant South Americans should Lionel Messi be unavailable.
Luis Suarez is the first player in Europe’s top 5 leagues to reach double figures for both goals and assists this season.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 2, 2017
Lionel Messi’s absence dealt with well
On that note, it has to be said that Barcelona dealt with Lionel Messi’s absence quite well. MSN have been the foundation of their success over the last few years and without the Argentine phenom, they have often looked out of sorts in the past.
Last night was an encouraging sign for Luis Enrique, as several of their players stepped up to the plate in his absence. Luis Suarez, Neymar, Paco Alcacer and Ivan Rakitic all combined well in the latter stages of the match and showed that the Catalans have what it takes to cope without Messi.
Samuel Umtiti’s rest does not affect Barcelona
With the news that Samuel Umtiti would be rested for the match against Granada, several of Barcelona’s fans took to Twitter to vent their frustration at Luis Enrique and express their bewilderment that a man who has not lost a single league match with Barcelona this season was left on the bench.
Somehow Lucho does not notice the trend of us winning when Umtiti starts, and dropping points 90% of the time that he doesn’t start.
— Shaunwan (@FCBShaun) April 2, 2017
Umtiti has won all 17 of the matches he has started for Barcelona in the La Liga so it was understandable when the fans were worried about his absence, given how tight the title race is proving to be this season.
However, Enrique’s decision to risk the youngster is also understandable. The last thing Barcelona need is for Umtiti to be overplayed and injure himself and the gamble paid off after Barcelona eased to a victory.