Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday at an uncharacteristically bouncing Camp Nou, which is reaping the benefits of expanding the singing section.
Barca killed the game off before half time with a brace from Rafinha and a strike from Luis Suarez. The second half was all about the return of Lionel Messi, who quickly found the net after coming on. Barca missed chances to heap further misery on their opponents, who were reduced to 10 men when Laure was sent off for elbowing Neymar, and can now focus their attention on Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Manchester City.
This time Luis Enrique’s rotations worked a treat and there were strong displays all over the pitch, from Lucas Digne and Javier Mascherano to Neymar and of course Rafinha. The best news of all though was seeing Messi back on the pitch and looking sharp after three-and-a-half weeks out with a groin problem. Manchester City beware.
Paco Alcacer’s difficult start to life in the team is not getting any easier and he is clearly shot of confidence, evidenced by missing three clear chances and his angry reaction as each one failed to go in. On a different note, the absence of Aleix Vidal from the squad even when Sergi Roberto was out means the former Sevilla man’s days at the club are surely numbered.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Luis Enrique’s decision to confer with Messi about starting him from the bench, and the Argentine’s strong display once he came on, suggests he enjoys a far better relationship with him these days.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 — Enjoyed a comfortable afternoon, which must have been a relief after his horror show against Celta Vigo. Did not have to make a single save as Deportivo sent all their shots off target.
DF Javier Mascherano, 7 — A solid performance from the Argentine, who produced a stronger display on the right of the back three than he did against Leganes. Needed a confidence booster after his blooper for his national side against Peru.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 — Was given a brilliant reception from fans in his first game back since dropping the shock of his planned retirement from Spain after the next World Cup. “Piquenbauer,” chanted the supporters and he lived up to his nickname with frequent forays into the opposing box and his towering header which was turned in by Rafinha. He should have got another assist for putting the ball on a plate for the wasteful Alcacer.
DF Jeremy Mathieu, 6 — Did not put a foot wrong but was barely tested by an impotent Deportivo.
MF Arda Turan, 6 — Surrendered the ball a couple of times in midfield but with little consequence.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 — Another strong display from the Croatian, who got some much-needed rest during the international break after being ruled out of his country’s World Cup qualifiers with injury.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 — Looked much more confident after losing his composure in recent weeks, above all at Balaidos, but was barely put under pressure by Depor.
MF Lucas Digne, 7 — Had a better display than his last game at Camp Nou, the 2-1 defeat to Alaves, and played a part in the first goal. Even if at first his cross from the left looked overplayed, it eventually made its way to Rafinha.
FW Rafinha, 8 — The outstanding performer, Rafinha was an unlikely figure to open the scoring but did so with an opportune shot down German Lux’s throat which trickled into the net. He then showed a killer instinct to mop up the loose ball after missing a header to strike his first double in a Barca shirt.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 — The Uruguayan had a bad start to the game, somehow heading over from close range after Neymar had struck the bar. But he had a hand in Rafinha’s opener and relocated his shooting boots just before the break to net the third after neatly bringing Neymar’s pass under control.
FW Neymar, 8 — The Brazilian reaped the benefits of returning home early from Brazil due to suspension and played a big part in three of the four goals. He was Barca’s creative engine, hitting the bar early on and then unwrapping Depor with his movement and passing, teeing up Suarez and Messi after sending in the free kick from which Rafinha struck his second.
FW Paco Alcacer (for Suarez), 5 — The Spain international showed good movement but his rotten luck in front of goal continued.
No. 10 Lionel Messi (for Busquets), 8 — Came on to rapturous applause and no sooner had fans got used to seeing him on the pitch again they were greeted with the familiar sight of him smashing the ball into the net. The Argentine looked as good as new after over three weeks out and helped propel Barca to a higher level after coming on.
MF Denis Suarez (for Rafinha), 6 — Another impressive cameo display as he continues to adapt well to Barca’s play.