Arda Turan upstages Lionel Messi as Barca enjoy comfy win vs. 'Gladbach
Arda Turan unexpectedly stole the show from a record-chasing Lionel Messi as Barcelona produced a professional display and thrashed Borussia Moenchengladbach 4-0 to finish the group stage on a high by taking 15 points from Group C.
Even though the result had no outcome on the standings, Luis Enrique's men played with the hunger and seriousness befitting a semifinal tie, with Arda, Denis Suarez and Aleix Vidal in particular producing excellent displays in what was an extremely one-sided affair.
Barcelona picked up a first win in four games in all competitions, something that should give them a huge lift in confidence after a fortnight to forget. Vidal produced his best display in a Barca shirt, and there could even be a light at the end of the tunnel for him, in terms of his future at the club, while Iniesta made Barca feel like Barca again.
It seems folly to pick something in a 4-0 win, but Messi fell one goal short of equaling Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 11 goals in a group stage. That was a shame, as he got off to the perfect start with a goal in the 16th minute.
8 out of 10 -- Luis Enrique played his cards just right, giving minutes to the players who needed them (Vidal, Jasper Cillessen, Paco Alcacer) while playing with a strong enough team to win the game. La Masia enthusiasts might complain about the low participation from the academy players, but the whole squad will benefit from the confidence restored by such a seamless display.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jasper Cillessen, 6 -- He will benefit from his first clean sheet with Barca but still looked a bit shaky on the rare occasions Gladbach came forward. DF Aleix Vidal, 8 -- In a performance as complete as it was unexpected, Vidal whizzed up and down the right flank all game, providing brilliant support in attack (as evidenced by his assist for Turan's second goal) and making gut-busting runs back. Perhaps he could yet have a productive career at his boyhood club.
DF Javier Mascherano, 7 -- He could be spotted all over the pitch in an all-action display to mark his 300th appearance for the club.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 -- He snuffed out any Gladbach attacks and contributed to what was a free-flowing team display with precise passes and control.
DF Lucas Digne, 6 -- He got forward a lot, though he didn't have a great influence upon his team's most decisive moves.
MF Denis Suarez, 7 -- Along with Iniesta, the youngster set the tone of Barca's play with confident and purposeful passing. He also provided the cross -- with the help of a deflection - for Arda's first goal.
MF Andre Gomes, 5 -- It says a lot about the Portuguese midfielder's predicament that even on a night when Barca hit top gear, he was still lagging behind and struggling to make his mark on proceedings.
MF Andres Iniesta, 8 -- He proved yet again what a difference it makes when he is around in his first start since he injured his knee at Mestalla. He gave Barca identity and verve and was given a suitably loud ovation when taken off.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- He made a rampant start. After he carved the opposition open and sent Arda's cutback into the net, it looked inevitable that he would equal, if not surpass, Ronaldo's record of 11 group stage goals. In the end, he was upstaged on the scoring front by Arda but was still at the heart of Barca's effervescent play.
FW Paco Alcacer, 6 -- His goalscoring drought since joining the club continues, and although a worryingly small amount of chances fell his way, he had a better display than in recent weeks and will be pleased with his assist for Arda's third.
FW Arda Turan, 9 -- This was an astonishing turnaround from the man Luis Enrique appeared to blame for Sergio Ramos' equaliser on Saturday. Arda well and truly owned the game, laying on the pass for Messi's opener and taking on responsibility for the rest of the goals himself, showing a killer instinct in the box and brilliant movement outside it.
MF Rafinha (for Iniesta), 7 -- He made a case to take Gomes' place in midfield with an energetic cameo. He also provided the pass for Alcacer to lay for Arda's third goal.
FW Marc Cardona (for Arda), NR -- He made his second appearance for the first team following his Copa del Rey debut at Hercules.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.