In the end Barcelona ended up dominating Espanyol in the Catalan Derby, but not after a a few early visits from lady luck. All four of the squad’s new summer signings took part in the match and all four showed glimmering glimpses of what Culés can expect in the coming months. Critics may argue the club is missing a player the caliber of Philippe Coutinho but currently the squad sits first in La Liga four points in front of Real Madrid.
Marc-André ter Stegen – 6.5
Made nice stops in either half and started the movement for the fifth goal with a long pass. His distribution cannot be argued against but his decision-making in the box leaves a little bit to be desired. Whether to come for the ball or not is the always the question.
Jordi Alba – 8.5
Looks like a player reborn under Ernesto Valverde and with the absence of Neymar. The left flank is his to dominate and dominate he did against Espanyol. He provided two assists to the second and third goals of Lionel Messi’s hat trick with overwhelming overlaps into the box. Messi playing the false nine and Luis Suárez starting on the left but always drifting inside allows Alba the full freedom he desires on the wing.
Samuel Umtiti – 8.0
Intercepts, blocks, tackles, headers, and strong running is this man’s game. What a signing the Frenchman has turned out to be. With his continued improvement the left side of the defense will not be a problem for the club for many years.
Gerard Piqué – 7.5
He was strong in the air all match and provided the steel the defense needed. Critiques continue to argue that he has dropped below Barcelona quality but he continues to show that is not the case. Hopefully his strong header goal will silence some critics. The future president’s form is key to this season’s results.
Nélson Semedo – 7.5
This man is a beast on the right side of the pitch. Up and down he strides stopping all that come to oppose him. Defense is his first concern but offense on the right is of no concern with his presence on the pitch. His partnership with Ousmane Dembélé will be a joy to watch this season.
Andrés Iniesta – 6.5
Wasn’t the night that will stand out on this man’s great CV. He was mostly anonymous on the night but did provide an outlet from Espanyol’s press. Age may be catching up with this magician but class is something that never goes away.
Sergio Busquets – 7.5
This man has divine class on the ball. If MAtS gets him the ball any press can be broken. It is worrying that he has no one on the squad that can back up his world class play. Injuries are the one thing that could derail the club’s momentum at this point.
Ivan Rakitić – 8.0
Another player who looks to be reborn under new management. With Semedo owning the right side, Ivan has the space to drift inside and be the central midfielder he is made to be. His through ball assist for Messi’s first goal was a diamond even if Messi was offside.
Gerard Deulofeu – 7.5
He is definitely the bargain buy of the season for the club. All he does is create space and drive into the box. He won numerous corners, created a number of chances, and overlapped with a vengeance. Hopefully he will get plenty of minutes on the pitch to keep improving.
Luis Suárez – 6.5
He was a step off all night. You can blame it on coming back too soon from injury or the FIFA virus but hopefully the great number Nine will not struggle with Messi playing a false nine. Even with all his struggles Luis still scored a great goal in the 90th for Barcelona’s fifth of the match.
Lionel Messi – 9.0
Hat trick for the maestro. All match he drove into the heart of Espanyol and ended up ripping it out with only blood left in his wake. This man is some kind of machine made to play football, but upon closer inspection it is his artistry that truly makes him special.
Ousmane Dembélé – 7.5
Brilliant assist to Luis to open this man’s account for FC Barcelona. The pressure of the world is on this man’s shoulders, but he responded with vigor. Will he get the start on Tuesday?
Paulinho – 6.0
Quiet eighteen minutes on the pitch for the Brazilian. Many will jump to say his first touch isn’t Barcelona quality, and he should have scored his one chance on goal, but time will be his friend and his worth remains to be seen.
André Gomes – 7.0
Who was this man who was subbed on for Andrés Iniesta in the 77th minute? He was barley recognizable to the player who played for the club last season. Driving runs, passes forward and longer than five yards, and an electricity about him were a grand sight to behold. His beautiful pass to Ousmane freed him to put Luis on goal.
The Club won the derby five to nil, has won it’s first three matches in league, and are looking like world beaters early in the season. Tuesday’s match against Juventus in Champions League play will be the true early season test for Barcelona. Can the club band together and show its true colors, Blaugrana. What do you think?