Barcelona continued their perfect start to the season as they handed a thumping 5-0 loss to Espanyol in the Catalan Derby on Saturday

A rampaging Barcelona romped to the top of the La Liga table, continuing their perfect start to the 2017-18 season as they made it three wins out of three at the start of the season. A listless Espanyol side were thwarted away in a 5-0 loss as the Blaugrana continued building an early season winning momentum.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring for the hosts in the 26th minute before quickly adding a second ten minutes later. Midway through the second half, the Argentinean wizard completed his 38th Barcelona hat-trick as he found the back of the net with a cool finish from Jordi Alba’s cross.

The five-star Catalans then rounded off the win after Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez struck two late goals to complete a comfortable, satisfying win. The result took Barcelona to the top of the table, with nine points, two clear at the summit of Spanish football. The Hard Tackle takes a look at the major talking points from the match.

A Shock Early Advantage Over Real Madrid

Heading into the 2017-18 season, all the talk surrounding the two giants of Spanish football had people predicting a Real Madrid domination yet again, with Barcelona playing catch-up. Considering the build up to the season with Neymar leaving the club and a humiliating Spanish Super Cup to their bitter rivals, conventional wisdom suggested the same.

Fast track almost a month into the season, and it looks like the expert predictors might have to swallow their words already. While Real Madrid have played some eye catching football, they have often come up short when up against resolute defensive units, at home.

On the other hand, Ernesto Valverde’s men have turned on the style, winning three games out of three while barely being troubled. The table toppers have found the back of the net nine times, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen yet to have his net rippled thus far.

Dominating the bulk of the possession in all three games, Barcelona have controlled the games beautifully while rarely being troubled by their opposition. And while it is true that titles aren’t won in three weeks, Valverde and co. have shown that they won’t be mere pushovers this season.

The Lionel Messi Show

One can argue that all three matches at the start of the current season have seen Barcelona dish out complete team performances, one man has stood head and shoulders above every other player in La Liga thus far.

Lionel Messi, as he has done time and again, for Barcelona for well over a decade has been the saviour for his side so far this season. And it was more of the same on Saturday as well, as the Argentinean superstar struck the 42nd hat-trick of his career to guide the Blaugrana to another comfortable victory.

His exploits on the night also took his tally against Espanyol to 18 goals, making Messi the highest scorer in the history of the Catalan Derby, while also taking the early season lead in the top scorer chart in La Liga with four goals.

“Why stress? We have Messi.” A banner at Camp Nou had read these words on Saturday night. Indeed, as long as Barcelona have the wizard named Messi, especially in such menacing form, they can hope to be back in the big time once again this season.

Deulofeu Provides Some Food For Thought

Neymar’s departure last month has brought about a widespread sense of panic and uncertainty among Barcelona fans, at least till they got hold of Ousmane Dembele late into August. With the likes of Arda Turan, Denis Suarez, Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu as Ernesto Valverde’s replacements from within his squad, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Deulofeu, in particular, was a player who had his fair share of doubters after Barcelona decided to exercise their buy-back clause to bring him back to Camp Nou. But, the former Everton man has gone on to defy his critics in style thus far, with three impressive performances for his boyhood club.

Saturday’s outing was, in fact, one of the best in his career as he capped off his performance with another assist. The Spaniard has been comfortable in the team’s possession-based style, playing patiently while making the most of the opportunities that come his way.

In fact, his driving runs from the wings end up adding another dimension to Barcelona’s attack, paving the way for a more dynamism. Sure, Dembele is expected to take up Deulofeu’s position sooner or later, but the 23-year-old has proven that he has all the means to become an asset for Valverde this season.

Dembele’s Long Awaited Debut

Barcelona have a new future talisman at their disposal, and he too wears the number 11 shirt, like his illustrious predecessor. There was understandably a lot of excitement ahead of the match on Saturday, with Ousmane Dembele expected to make his long-awaited Barcelona debut.

While the Frenchman didn’t start the match, perhaps due to a lack of match fitness, the moment finally came midway through the second half. The reception that he got upon his arrival onto the hallowed turf of Camp Nou suggest that Dembele is already a fan favourite among the Barcelona faithfuls.

While his appearance was short-lived, just about 22 minutes, the 20-year-old provided a reminder of just why Ernesto Valverde sanctioned the big-money move for him. Dembele capped off his outing with a debut assist, which was then greeted by rapturous applause by the fans inside Camp Nou. An exciting season awaits for the youngster.

Splendid Semedo

If Gerard Deulofeu has enjoyed a promising return to Barcelona, and if Ousmane Dembele has a lot of expectations after an impressive debut, there is another summer signing that the Catalans made this summer who has been nothing short of outstanding himself.

Barcelona’s search for a right-back to fill the enormous void left by Dani Alves’ departure last summer had seen them sign Nelson Semedo. Impressive in Portugal with Benfica, the player did have his fair share of skeptics at his new club.

However, three games into the new season, Semedo has shows that even though he has some big shoes to fill at Camp Nou, he is definitely up to the task. His pacy outlet does not only help the Portuguese defender make an impact in the final third with his searching passes, he also uses the trait to dart back and make ground quickly when needed.

On top of that, Semedo also possesses immense technical abilities that make him the perfect fit in the style that Barcelona play with. Given, it’s still early days in the season, but Semedo looks one inspired signing who could possibly help Barcelona to a successful season.