After away defeat to David Moyes’ new side Real Sociedad in their last match, when Luis Enrique caused a storm by dropping both Neymar and Lionel Messi, it was back to their more recognisable form for Barcelona yesterday with a 5-0 thrashing of Elche in the last 16 of the Spanish cup or as the locals call it the Copa del Rey.
With rumours abounding that their diminutive genius Messi may be considering a move to the English Premier League, amid a reported rift with the boss, Enrique, it was time for the Catalan giants to do their talking out on the pitch and they found their opposition more than once far too accommodating.
It could and no doubt should have been more, as the massively assembled frontline of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez attacked their opponents’ rearguard seemingly at will and the Elche loanee keeper, the Pole Przemyslaw Tyton made several decent saves that kept the count down. It took them all of thirty-five minutes to break the deadlock, but from then on there was only one winner.
Three nil in front by half-time through goals from each of the triumvirate (including a penalty for Messi), they added two more at a canter in the second, with all five goals coming in an exciting twenty-five minutes of play. Messi demonstrated that the off-field rumblings were not effecting his abilities on the pitch as he became provider to set up Jordi Alba for the fourth. Then the Brazilian Neymar waded in to establish his credentials with a powerful shot for the fifth that glanced in off the underside of the bar. Barcelona throttled back with the result a formality to conserve their energies no doubt for this weekend’s impending league fixture.
There is still the second leg to come of the tie next Thursday, but it seems a forlorn hope that Elche will be much better then to gain any comfort from their star-studded victors last night, although Barca may decide to rest one or two of their main players should they so wish.
More intriguing is the tie that should lie in store for Barca after they complete their responsibilities in the return leg, with the draw having presented them with the mouthwatering prospect of facing the winner from Atletico and Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. Atletico have a two goal advantage so have at least one foot in the next round, but don’t count Real out just yet if Ronaldo and Bale can hit their stride in the home game at the Bernabeu. Before that though, there is a possible foretaste of what is to come as Barcelona host Atletico in the Spanish league on Sunday.