So, at this point, I don't think there is anything else that can be said about the brilliance of Messi. He was undoubtedly the talking point of this game for good reason. However, there were many great performances around the pitch on this day.
I was relatively happy with the line-up. Andre Gomes starting was a dumb idea to me but then again, it always is. I loved having Semedo at right back and having Sergio Roberto back in his natural position! Understandably, Paulinho was hurt in the last game so a start was probably unlikely, however, Denis wasn't even on the bench. Either way, as always the question with the line-up, what has Gomes done to deserve another start?
I've been wanting Roberto back in the midfield for so long, I see him as the next Xavi and a highlight of my week was his contract extension. He started off showing us why he belongs in the midfield, those runs he's made in the Classicos, he was making frequently in the midfield. I am very much looking forward to seeing many more of those in the future. He almost scored as well, but then again, he is the Xavi heir, not Iniesta.
Ivan the Terrible
Another player I've loved in our midfield has been Ivan. He has his detractors, but I think people are quick to forget his heroics during our last champions league run. Under Valverde his role has changed a good bit. He's been playing much deeper and really showing he can do it. Prior to scoring the first goal, his best contributions were defensive. I'd hate to say he's seen a resurgence under Valverde, because he wasn’t' bad with Enrique, Enrique just wanted to play Gomes more.
Either way, Rakitic is playing very well. His first goal was fantastic, but the pass to set up Suarez's first was just sublime. This game was a true showcase of how versatile he is, and with more performances like that…let's just say, our odds are good.
Luis Suarez the Play Maker?
I spoke about his return to form a couple games back, I think it was the Celta Vigo game. He's back and it's amazing, however, the main talking point for me this game was his positioning. He was rarely up front in this game. I would have to think it was by design, and if it is, Valverde's thrown everyone another wrinkle. Luis played deeper than I've seen him ever play, setting up the first goal, but not just that, hitting cross-field balls from deep right like Messi does. It was crazy to see and a very interesting switch of tactic.
I'd like to see more of this in the future to really understand it fully. Either way, it worked well and was another thing for opposing coaches to worry about.
The Best Timed Injury
Thomas Vermaelen has had a good series of games, I have not been as excited as everyone else because I think our defense showed some holes with him playing, however, he did well. His injury could not have been better timed however because we got the man back! Samuel Umtiti back going into the business end of the season is a great boost for our team. With Yerry Mina ready to assist, we can even ease Umtiti back in slowly to ensure he's 100% for Chelsea and whoever else.
All we need him to do is sign a contract extension and our future is safe!
Another Start for Gomes
I almost got out of here without talking about this guy. To be fair, he played the best I've seen him play for us so far. His 4/5 fouls were problematic, however, he did competently pass the ball forward more than once this game. I am not going to praise him for playing like a professional for the first time in a Barca jersey, however. He did things that every player under him has done from day one. I am legit starting to think his size is the only thing that coaches see in him. On paper, he could be an all-time great with that size. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the confidence or skills to back it up.
Seeing Out the Win
It was the 87th minute, and Betis had the ball, what was Barca doing, 2 lines of four players in front of our goal! Idk if it's just me but, I've not seen us play this compact defense at the end of a game up 4 goals. I love what Valverde is doing, this is how you see out a win, I will never advocate parking the bus, however, that we can do it, that we have the concentration and desire to do it, is great to see. We have to thank Valverde for that.
Overall, it was a great game for us, we absorbed the pressure first half, wore them down, then outplayed them. The only thing left to say is, Messi's going for his 6th Balon d'Or …keep watching! Visca Barca!