Four-goal Messi was perfect as Barcelona cruise to 6-1 win over Eibar
BARCELONA, Spain -- Lionel Messi scored four goals as Barcelona thumped Eibar 6-1 to make it five consecutive wins to start their La Liga season. There were also goals from Saturday's saviours at Getafe, Paulinho and Denis Suarez, while Eibar's consolation came from Sergi Enrich.
The major positive is that with Messi in this type of form, not many sides will be able to deal with Barca. Elsewhere, Nelson Semedo continues to really impress at right-back and Paulinho and Denis, for the second game running, showed that the whole squad could have a contribution to make this season.
This was billed as a night in which Gerard Deulofeu could step up following the injury to Ousmane Dembele. However, the La Masia graduate once again flattered to concede. There may also be question marks over some of the defending as far as Ernesto Valverde's concerned. He warned in his prematch news conference about Eibar's threat from out wide, yet Barca still conceded once from a cross and could have allowed more, with the Basque side twice hitting the woodwork.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Valverde made just the right number of changes and the players he brought in looked fresh and hungry to impress: Semedo, Paulinho and Denis. The coach will hope he can continue to strike the right balance as the season progresses.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Had to be alert early on as Eibar started well. Made a good save from Enrich when the striker was one-on-one and beat away an effort from Takashi Inui at his near post. Made a second save from Inui after the break, but was also reliant on his woodwork to not concede more than just one goal.
DF Nelson Semedo, 8 -- There's something immensely enjoyable about watching Semedo play in these early days of his Barcelona career. Lively, energetic and bags of ability. Won the penalty that led to the first goal under the watching eye of Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
DF Gerard Pique, 6 -- Often a spectator as Barca played on the front foot. At 5-1, he took it upon himself to stay in the centre-forward position for a while, desperate for some action. That said, Eibar did pose questions and he didn't deal with every ball that was thrown into the box.
DF Javier Mascherano, 6 -- Making his first appearance since the opening-day win over Real Betis in August, Mascherano was as reliable as ever alongside Pique, although there was nothing to suggest he's likely to win his place back from the rested Samuel Umtiti any time soon.
DF Lucas Digne, 6 -- Came into the side to allow Jordi Alba to take a rest, but was unable to offer as much of a threat in attack -- although he did miss a one-on-one. It's difficult for him to gain confidence to take more chances, though, when he's rarely afforded a run of games. Steady in defence as ever.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Lucky to get away with giving the ball away on a few occasions in the first half. Was involved in the beautiful move that led to Messi's second goal, though.
MF Paulinho, 8 -- Scored his first goal for the club against Getafe at the weekend and netted his second here to go with his first start since signing from Guangzhou Evergrande in the summer. There was also a lovely dummy in the buildup to Denis' goal and the assist for Messi's third. Not such a bad signing, after all.
MF Andres Iniesta, 7 -- Somewhat of a surprise inclusion given that he'd started five games in the past two weeks and was taken off at half-time against Getafe after a tired performance. Assured, as ever, on the ball and his range of passing before being substituted was brilliant.
FW Gerard Deulofeu, 5 -- There was no lack of effort from Deulofeu but there was a lack of quality. Was frequently wasteful in promising positions on a night that was presented as a massive opportunity to prove his worth in the absence of Dembele.
FW Denis Suarez, 8 -- Changed the game at Getafe and deserved his start here, but may have preferred to have been given continuity in midfield, rather than asked to play a left forward role. Delivered the corner that led to Paulinho's role and there were some nice touches before his emphatic finish in the second half made it 3-0.
FW Lionel Messi, 10 -- What more can be said? Barcelona-based Diario Sport wrote the new trident is the MMM: Messi, Messi and Messi. It's hard to argue with that at the moment. He already has nine goals in just five league games this season and each of his goals, bar the first, which was a penalty, had something special about it.
MF Sergi Roberto, 6 -- Given a run out in midfield for half an hour in place of captain Iniesta.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Came on to allow Busquets a rest, but the game had long since been up.
MF Aleix Vidal, 7 -- Set up the sixth goal in a brief cameo which showed he could do a job on the right while Dembele is missing.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.