Barça march on. Two goals apiece from Leo Messi and Luis Suárez plus one each from Neymar Jr and Xavi Hernández earned a six-nil victory over Getafe at Camp Nou tonight to stay top of La Liga with just four games to play. Five of the goals came in a magnificent first-half display with the sixth coming straight after the break, and if Barça hadn’t eased up in the second half the score might well have reached double figures.
Luis Enrique made four changes to the side that won at Espanyol on Saturday. Adriano replaced the suspended Jordi Alba, Marc Bartra and Jeremy Mathieu formed the central defensive partnership in place of Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano while Xavi came in for Andrés Iniesta in midfield. Rafinha kept his place which meant Ivan Rakitic started his second successive game on the bench, and there was no place for Pedro which meant no rest for the attacking trio of Messi, Suárez and Neymar.
Getafe played a narrow defensive 4-4-2 but Barça were soon causing the visitors problems to maintain their compact shape with swift passes from side to side. Dani Alves was immediately getting forward, firing two shots in the first six minutes. Then in the eighth minute Bartra advanced into the Getafe half before sending a low pass to Suárez on the edge of the box. The Uruguayan turned well, drawing a clumsy challenge from Arroyo just inside the area and referee Fernández Borbalán had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Messi took the kick Panenka style, feinting to send Guaita moving to his right, before sending a gentle chip delightfully into the centre of the goal.
Getafe had their best spell after the first goal. Freddy Hinestroza with a lob nearly took advantage of Bravo seemingly coming too far out of his goal, but the Barça keeper recovered brilliantly, running back to scoop the ball acrobatically off the line. Babá then forced another save from Bravo with a low angled shot. However, Barça were also creating chances but Messi and Bartra failed to find the target and Suárez’s chip lacked height.
Any chance of Getafe making a game of it evaporated as Barça raised the pace with three quick goals in the space of five minutes. First, in the 25th minute, Alves found Messi on the right and the Argentinian chipped a pass into the area towards Suárez. The Uruguayan had the ball arriving over his shoulder but he judged it brilliantly to connect with a volley that flew between Guaita and his left-hand post. Three minutes later Rafinha won the ball high up the pitch, knocking the ball to Suárez who quickly found Neymar inside the left of the area. The Brazilian skipped inside Velazquez’s challenge before firing low inside the near post. Before you could blink Xavi was joining the fun, exchanging passes with Neymar before curling a splendid shot high into the far corner to make it 4-0. It capped a splendid performance from the veteran midfielder in his 501st league game. One wonders how many more occasions this magnificent player will have to grace Camp Nou.
It’s worth noting that all six goals tonight had a certain beauty to them but the fifth, five minutes before half-time, was probably the best. Messi dribbled inside from the right, exchanged passes with Neymar before sending a pass to Xavi on the edge of the area, Xavi glanced a gorgeous flick with the outside of his right foot perfectly into the path of Suárez who cracked his shot first time high inside the far post.
Luis Enrique decided to take off Busquets at half-time to give him a rest and Sergi Roberto came on in his place. The sixth goal came soon after the break and also involved a nice build-up with Mathieu, Neymar and Xavi all involved. Suárez then swept a pass to Messi who controlled on his chest, took a moment to pick his spot, then curled a shot which poor Guaita again couldn’t reach as it flew into the top corner.
Barça slowed down after the sixth goal and subsequently there was not too much of interest. Suárez, and Messi twice, forced further saves from Guaita while Getafe came close when Hinestroza hit the post though Bartra deserves credit for putting the striker off. The most notable point was Luis Enrique’s switch to 4-2-3-1 for the last half an hour when Pedro replaced Xavi. Sergi Roberto and Rafinha played the double pivot in midfield while Messi, who had stuck mainly to the right, now moved into the middle behind Suárez. The formation didn’t look quite as fluent but with the 6-0 scoreline the intensity inevitably dropped which was probably more responsible for lack of further goals.
The second half was of little importance in the end. The magnificent first half was enough proof that the team is in extremely good condition going into the last few games of the season. I’m sure quite a few of us would have liked to see at least one of the forwards rested tonight and now we’ll just have to wait and see if any of them get a breather against Cordoba on Saturday before next Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich. Having said that the trio of Messi, Suárez and Neymar all look in such good shape that maybe Luis Enrique sees them capable of last the pace for another six weeks. The threesome have now scored 102 goals between them this season (Messi 49, Neymar 32 and Suárez 21) which beats the previous record for a Barça trio of strikers of 100 in the 2008/09 season (Messi 38, Eto’o 36 and Henry 26). Their understanding just gets better and better and if it continues to do so it has every chance of going down as Barça’s best ever strike force.
Regular readers will remember I wasn’t too keen on the Suárez signing last summer when I argued we should keep Alexis and spend the money on other parts of the team. The Uruguayan has shown he is a class above the Chilean, and with Messi apparently happy to play on the right when asked, we are definitely more dangerous with Suárez. Who knows? Maybe soon we will be saying “Trust in Lucho” like we used to about a previous coach who had a very successful spell at Camp Nou not so long ago! Titles will be the ultimate judge: we are getting very close now.
Barça: Bravo 7; Alves 7.5 (Montoya m75, 6), Bartra 8, Mathieu 7, Adriano 7; Rafinha 7, Busquets 7.5 (Sergi Roberto h/t, 7), Xavi 8.5 (Pedro m59, 6); Messi 8.5, Suárez 9, Neymar 8.
Getafe: Guaita; Arroyo, Alexis, Velazquez, Lago; Pedro Leon (Escudero m76), Lacen, Juan Rodriguez (Alex Felip m64), Emi; Freddy Hinestroza, Babá (Ivi m49).
Goals: m9 Messi (pen) 1-0, m25 Suárez 2-0, m28 Neymar 3-0, m30 Xavi 4-0, m40 Suárez 5-0, m47 Messi 6-0.
No yellow cards.