Barcelona shook off any fears of a FIFA virus with a decisive 4-0 victory over Deportivo, this Saturday afternoon, at the Camp Nou.
Rafinha scored a first half brace before Luis Suarez added a third before half-time, but they were both upstaged by Lionel Messi, who scored Barcelona’s fourth in his return from injury.
La Pulga had been out three weeks but needed just three touches to find the back of the net in what was a comprehensive victory for the Catalonians.
Deportivo had plenty of reason to feel confident ahead of the affair.
In the first match following the previous international break, Barcelona had fallen 2-1 at home to Alavés, plus Deportivo had earned draws in their last two visits to the Camp Nou.
However, any hope of a result for the visitors on Saturday fell to the wayside by half-time thanks to the work of Rafinha, Suárez and Neymar.
Manager Luis Enrique opted to use the three-man back line that worked so well in last month’s 5-1 win at Leganés, with Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué and Jeremy Mathieu the chosen ones this time around.
Lucas Digne was pushed forward into midfield, while Rafinha was also given the start ahead of the rested Andres Iniesta.
Early on, Neymar and Suárez showed no ill effects of the international break as the two South Americans each had chances to open the scoring in the first 10 minutes.
Neymar thundered a shot off the crossbar, which Suárez just missed heading in off the rebound. That was then followed by a free kick from the Brazilian that just missed over the crossbar.
Deportivo were undaunted though, and unlike many teams who venture into the Camp Nou, the Galicians looked patient and calm over the ball and tried to control things with short, orderly passes.
Yet, all Barcelona needed was one defensive hesitation, to make an opponent pay, and Fernando Navarro’s failure to clear his line allowed Rafinha to dispossess the veteran full-back, play a quick one-two with Suárez, and deposit the ball in the back of Lux’s net to give the home side a 1-0 edge.
The Rafinha goal went a long way to calming the nerves of the Camp Nou faithful, and the Brazilian provided even more relief when he fired home from a few yards out to double the margin.
Neymar swung in a free kick from the right side that Piqué headed right at Lux. The Deportivo goalkeeper made a reaction save, but the ball fell perfectly for Rafinha, who pounced and scored to make it 2-0
There was quality written all over Barcelona’s third, which came just minutes before the break, as Neymar split a pair of Deportivo defenders and fed Suárez with a pass using the outside of his right foot.
Suárez was perfectly positioned to collect the ball and he easily shook off his marker before slipping a shot past Lux.
The Camp Nou had a celebratory feel to it the rest of the way, and Suárez nearly made it four right before the break with a shot that rocketed off the post.
The second half began with more cheers emanating from the sun-splashed stands with Messi warming up along the touchline.
They then grew to a roar on 55 minutes when the Argentine officially returned to the field of play, replacing midfielder Sergio Busquets.
It took a mere two minutes for Messi to leave his mark, as he stretched Barcelona’s lead to 4-0 by gathering in a pass from Neymar on the left and rifling in a left-footer past Lux.
An already difficult task for Deportivo was made impossible shortly after the hour mark when Laure was sent off with a straight red card for elbowing Neymar.
The only doubt remaining was whether Paco Alcácer could score his first goal in a Barcelona shirt, but the answer would be no.
The former Valencia man nicked a header off the post after a fine cross from Messi, failed to beat Lux from point-blank range and then pushed a shot agonisingly wide in the final seconds.
Nevertheless, the win was satisfactory enough for Luis Enrique’s team, who now return to Champions League action on Wednesday at home against Manchester City.
– Match sheet:
4. Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mascherano, Piqué, Mathieu; Arda, Rakitic, Sergio (Messi, min.55), Digne; Rafinha (Denis Suárez, min.73), Suárez (Paco Alcácer, min.46), Neymar.
0. Deportivo: Lux; Laure, Albentosa, Sidnei (Arribas, min.29), Fernando Navarro; Borges, Mosquera, Guilherme; Emre Çolak (Babel, min.55), Bruno Gama (Luisinho, min.63); Florin Andone.
Goals: 1-0, min.21: Rafinha. 2-0, min.37: Rafinha. 3-0, min.43: Suárez. 4-0, min.57: Messi.
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez.
Yellow cards: Mosquera (min.52), Florin Andone (min.60), Messi (min.89).
Red card: Laure (min.64).
Camp Nou (Barcelona): 83.553
EDITED FROM: marca.com