Madrid: Barcelona are back in form and La Liga’s big three are back at the top of the table after the defending champions put on a finishing masterclass to thrash Sevilla 4-0 on Sunday.
Lionel Messi scored his first goal of the season by curling in a brilliant free-kick at Camp Nou after three goals in eight minutes from Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ousmane Dembele had already put Sevilla out of sight.
Suarez launched the flurry, his stunning left-footed bicycle kick arguably even better than the volley he scored in the Champions League win over Inter Milan on Wednesday.
Vidal then finished a superb passing move that involved all 11 Barca players and Dembele powered through to make it three before Messi added a fourth in the second half.
The match descended into farce late on as Barcelona’s debutant Ronald Araujo was sent off and Dembele followed after collecting a second yellow card for dissent.
By then, the game was long gone as victory pushed Barcelona up to second in the table, two points behind Real Madrid and one above Atletico, who could have done with some of the Catalans’ classy finishing in their goalless draw away at Real Valladolid.
For all the turbulence and scrutiny on Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane, Barca and Madrid head into the international break not only as the league’s two frontrunners but with confidence and momentum too.
Eden Hazard scored his first goal for Madrid in their 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday and Barca’s star man is off the mark as well after his own injury-interrupted start to the season.
This was Barcelona’s fourth consecutive victory.
Messi’s return has increased the pressure on Antoine Griezmann, who was left out of the starting line-up following his quiet display against Inter. Dembele was preferred on the left of the front three.
Sevilla, who drop to sixth, had eight shots to Barcelona’s seven in the first half but were three down at the break.