Lionel Messi hat-trick lights up Barcelona derby win over Espanyol
La Liga, Camp Nou - Barcelona 5 (Messi 26', 35', 67', Pique 87', Suarez 90') Espanyol 0
Luis Suarez returned to the starting lineup after a spell out with injury, restoring a sense of normality to Ernesto Valverde’s team. This was much more like the free-flowing Barca side we have come to expect in recent years, but Messi was the star of the show.
He scored the first three goals of the game, with Gerard Pique and Suarez adding their name to the score sheet late on. There were also home debuts for summer signings Ousmane Dembele and Paulinho, with the former setting up Suarez with an exceptional assist for the final goal of the night.
Valverde has enjoyed a strong start to life at Barcelona, with the Catalans winning all three of their opening leagues games, scoring eight goals and keeping three straight clean sheets. When Messi is in form, off the field issues don’t seem to matter so much.
TALKING POINT - Were we too quick to write off Barcelona?
Barcelona were perceived to be a club in crisis over the summer. They lost one of their best players, with board room issues also casting a shadow over Camp Nou. However, on this showing they still have a strong enough squad to compete for honours this season. With the likes of Messi and Suarez leading the line, as well as Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets backing them up, Barca will always have a chance.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
This was another one of those nights when Messi demonstrates why he might just be the best player the world has ever seen. The Argentine created and scored his own chances, pulling the strings for others around him in the process. Messi is the beating heart of this Barcelona team in every possible way and this performance highlighted how.
26’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: There's the opening goal! Rakitic clips a ball into the box for Messi, who takes the touch, rounds the defender and finishes high into the net. There was a question of offside against that.
35’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol: There was a lot of luck in this one, but Barcelona and Messi have their second of the night! A ricochet falls nicely for Alba inside the box, who crosses into the path of Messi, who finishes underneath the keeper on the slide.
44’ OFF THE POST! That could have been a lifeline for Espanyol. Piatti pounces on to a loose ball inside the box, striking on the half volley, but his effort comes back off the post.
66’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Espanyol: It's all about Messi this evening! Suarez couldn't get the shot away, cuts it back for Messi, who makes no mistake in finishing past Lopez with a sweeping left foot finish.
87’ GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Espanyol: There's the goal to add the gloss to the scoreline for Barcelona! Pique starts his run from outside the box and hammers home a header from the corner kick.
90’ GOAL! Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol: There's a fifth and it's Suarez who sweeps home the finish, but the real attention grabber from this goal is the assist from Dembele. He played the pass right into the path of Suarez.
Barcelona won 34 of the last 36 possible points against Espanyol in La Liga.
Lionel Messi is now the all-time top scorer in the Catalan derby in La Liga (16).