Barcelona 3-0 Eibar
And they say Barcelona need a striker!
Yes, they do as their squad remains a little lightweight should injuries/suspensions kick in.
However, whether Alvaro Morata, Fernando Llorente or another target end up moving to the Nou Camp, they will be joining a squad already installed as the firm favourite to retain La Liga and any incoming arrival will likely spend quite some time on the bench when coach Ernesto Valverde has a full squad to pick from.
us followers will have noticed almost as much as the Eibar players that the heavyweights were back for this, this after a second-string side were beaten in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie three days earlier.
It showed as the game was won within the hour.
Highlights of the game
In contrast, Jose Luis Mendilibar and his team’s chances of springing a surprise at the Camp Nou was made even more difficult by their absentees.
As Barca were welcoming back Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Jordi Alba, Eibar were lacking some punch without both Charles Dias, their focal point in attack and influential centre back Ivan Ramis.
The omens weren’t good.
The Basque outfit had only lost two league games this season in which the centre-back had figured.
Worse still, Eibar’s total of five away goals going into this one was the lowest in the division. Moreover, since gaining promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history in 2014, their trips to the Camp Nou had resulted in heavy losses: they were defeated 3-0, 3-1, 4-2 and, most recently, 6-1.
Despite the cards being stacked against them and despite the difficulty of the task, Mendilibar was faithful to his daring style of play and they were spirited, perhaps encouraged by promising displays against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid earlier in the campaign.
Had Anaitz Arbilla not headed wide after 16 minutes, perhaps a surprise would have been on the cards, but there is a reason they have not won since November.
Three minutes later Philippe Coutinho found Suarez and the returning Uruguayan did the rest.
Sergi Enrich and Sergi Roberto traded headers that were close and the contest also remained close as the sides went in at the break.
Messi had been kept extremely quiet by the visitors but eight minutes after the break came the moment which will grab all the headlines over the days ahead.
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona during their La Liga match versus Eibar
Suarez provided the assist and the diminutive number 10 fired into the bottom right-hand corner to become the first player to score 400 goals in La Liga.
The landmark figure for a landmark player – what would the betting odds have been on that happening at the start of his career?
It also extended his record as La Liga’s all-time leading record scorer ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (now at Juventus) – 311 goals in 292 games at Real Madrid – and Telmo Zarra, who scored 251 La Liga goals.
As statisticians got to work on one of the 2019 La Liga news stories, Suarez applied the finishing touch to victory with a shot from a difficult angle after good work from Roberto.
Game over and Eibar were unable to muster a consolation, despite presentable chances for Enrich and Gonzalo Escalante, while Pablo de Blasis and Kike Garcia called Marc-Andre ter Stegen into action.
However, this was the day of the headline maker.
Messi is Barcelona’s greatest star and, just as he did in the first game of the year a week ago, here he produced even more of the La Liga 2019 highlights.
Messi has become the second player to reach 400+ goals in the history of Europe’s top five leagues after Ronaldo (409) reached the milestone.
The Argentina captain has now scored 13 goals in nine matches against the Basque side.
Messi (17) and Suarez (14) have scored 31 La Liga goals this term, no team has scored more. Sevilla and Celta Vigo have 31 each.
Messi has scored against 37 different teams in La Liga, the most by a player in the competition history.
This was the first of four successive home games for Barcelona.
Next up is the second leg of the Copa del Rey tie against Levante, followed by a home match against Leganes a week today (January 20).
It’s then off to Girona on January 27.
Eibar host Espanyol a week tomorrow (January 21) in La Liga and travel to Leganes in the league five days later.
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