Goals from Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez put Barcelona back on top of the La Liga table after a 3-0 win over Eibar at Ipurua.
Frenchman Griezmann opened the scoring within the first quarter of an hour of the game, before Messi and Suarez added second half-strikes. The result is Barcelona’s sixth league win of the season and puts them on top of the pile at least until Real Madrid face Real Mallorca on Saturday evening.
Eibar: Dmitrovic, de Blasis, Oliveira, Arbilla, Cote, Pedro Leon (Exposito 63′), Diop, Sergio Alvarez, Orellana, Charles (Kike Garcia 79′), Sergi Enrich (Inui 71′).
Subs not used: Bigas, Quique Gonzalez, Yoel, Tejero.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, S. Roberto (Semedo 45′), Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba, de Jong (Rakitic 79′), Busquets, Arthur (Vidal 71′), Messi, Suarez, Griezmann.
Subs not used: Neto, Todibo, Carles Perez, Ansu Fati
There weren’t just tactical issues related to his time at Atletico Madrid, though. There were also concerns over his personality. Griezmann admitted himself that he hadn’t spoken much with club captain Lionel Messi since arriving at Camp Nou during the summer for a €120 million fee because both are quiet characters.
Worryingly, Messi revealed that he and fellow forward and good friend Luis Suarez still shared a WhatsApp group with Neymar and that the South American trio “still talk a lot”.
As always, though, how Griezmann fit in on the field was always going to be decisive.
And he wasn’t helped by the fact that both Messi and Suarez had their respective injury issues at the start of the season. Griezmann got some goals early on but there was still a question mark over whether he was really compatible with Messi and Suarez.
This was Griezmann’s most impressive performance to date, for a variety of reasons, not least because it came away from home. He’d struggled on the road in his previous outings for Barca. In fact, he hadn’t scored an away goal for either the Catalans or Atleti since February 19.
He ended that drought just 13 minutes in, beating Marko Dmitrovic in the Eibar goal with the aid of the post after taking advantage of a smart long ball from Clement Lenglet – and an untimely slip from Pablo De Blasis.
Griezmann turned provider just before the hour mark, taking a pass from Suarez before teeing up Messi for the Argentine’s 16th goal in his last 10 appearances against Eibar.
Just eight minutes later, Barcelona’s front three combined again. This time, Griezmann split the defence with a sublime through-ball before Messi rolled the ball into the path of Suarez to score into an empty net.
The quality of the opposition has to be taken into account, of course: Eibar are a bottom-half team with just two previous wins to their name this campaign. However, this was an impressive performance from a team that has struggled on the road this season.
What’s more, Griezmann’s performance and the way in which he interacted with Messi and Suarez will come as a huge boost to Barcelona after what has been a difficult week in Catalunya.
Barca’s front three don’t have to be great friends; they just have to form a great forward line. They looked like one at Eibar on Saturday afternoon.