Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo might just have been crowned the best player in the world but it’s Messi who continues to play like someone from another planet.
He somehow wriggled clear of four Espanyol defenders to set up Luis Suarez for his and Barca’s second goal. And just to show it wasn’t a fluke he did it again a minute later to this time assist Jordi Alba.
He also dinked in the fourth goal through the legs of Espanyol keeper Roberto Jimenez after Espanyol defender David Lopez had pulled one back for the visitors.
There was plenty of prematch needle with Luis Enrique snubbing the traditional pre-derby photograph with Quique Sanchez Flores because of old grievances from their days as Real Madrid team-mates – they were video game pals but fell out when they played cards.
There were also boos for Diego Lopez’ first goal kick and he duly slipped on his backside as he took it. The Ex-Real Madrid keeper came into the game having already conceded 27 goals against Barcelona – no team has scored more against him and it was soon by 28.
Barcelona’s first chance came from a breakaway. Andres Iniesta released Suarez who spun away from two Espanyol defenders and sent Neymar down the left. He crossed but Messi sent the centre into the side netting with his shot.
The goal was not long in coming. With 18 minutes on the Camp Nou clock, Javier Mascherano won a challenge on the edge of his own area and when the ball ran to Iniesta, Suarez was already on the shoulder of the last Espanyol defender with his hand up.
Iniesta’s ball over the top was perfect and so was Suarez’ first touch taking him in front of Diego Reyes and meaning he either brought down Suarez or watched him score. He did the latter with Suarez celebrating his new £230k-a-week contract with a the game’s first goal.
Lopez has conceded more goals against Barcelona, 28, than any other side.
There were handbags before half-time with Sergi Busquet’s hand making contact with David Lopez face and Gerard Moreno punching Jordi Alba in the gut. Espanyol were showing the wrong sort of fight however. And Barcelona were comfortable at half-time.
Suarez almost got the second five minutes into the second period. Messi found a space between three Espanyol players and threaded the ball through for him but he couldn’t beat Diego Lopez. He did catch him inadvertently with his boot and the keeper had to bandaged-up and replaced by Espanyol’s substitute keeper Roberto Jimenez.
He was called straight into action when Messi sent the ball over the top for Neymar to run on to and he charged out to get there before the Brazilian. Soon he was picking the ball out of the back of his net, twice.
Suarez scored the first and Jordi Alba got the second but both were ‘Made in Messi’. He somehow slalomed between Javi Fuego, Moreno, David Lopez and Reyes before shooting. Roberto parried the shot and Suarez pounced on the rebound thumping it home.
With the Camp Nou still drop-jawed over Messi beating four players, he did it again this time with the ball running to Jordi Alba who scored to make it 3-0 and most definitely game over in favour of the reigning Liga champions.
Espanyol scored a consolation goal ten minutes from time when from Moreno’s pull-back central defender David Lopez finished like a forward past Marc Andre ter Stegen.
Messi restored the three goal advantage, nutmeging the keeper on the volley from Suarez’ lobbed assist… how else?