A new season, but a familiar feeling at the Nou Camp, as Barcelona come away with a 3-0 win over Elche. Lionel Messi scored twice and Munir El Haddadi might be something of a new star with a goal on his debut, as a red card to Javier Mascherano didn’t really bother the team from giving Luis Enrique his first win as the head coach of the club.
The good thing for Barcelona was Mascherano being sent off after they were already in the lead. Lionel Messi scored in the 42nd minute, and Mascherano managed to make a foul with no one behind him just before the half time whistle, as it seems Enrique didn’t bother to see the World Cup, keeping the Argentine at his weaker position, centre back. Marc Bartra came on in the second half for Rafinha, who didn’t really do much in 45 minutes, to make up for the defensive hole.
Elche didn’t seem bothered by the change in status. They came to defend, and didn’t change their plan despite the one-man advantage. Barcelona kept attacking, and Lionel Messi set up El Haddadi, who has been fantastic in the preseason matches, to score his first goal on his first match for the club. He still hasn’t made an appearance for the Spanish U-21 team, but it’s clear that day is coming soon.
Messi added another goal to finish the job, now only six goals away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in the history of the La Liga. He finished the match with two goals and one assist, seeming like a different person than the one who sulked through the ending of this summer’s World Cup. But maybe more interesting than Messi was the featuring of some new quantaties to Barcelona.
Ivan Rakitic started out playing like Iniesta in the past, while Andres Iniesta played like Xavi. Later on, especially in the second half, things changed, and Rakitic stopped venturing forward and wide, playing a more retreated and “responsible” role. Jeremy Mathieu was barely noticed which is good for a centre back, Dani Alves continues to look washed up, Jordi Alba was inaccurate, Sergio Busquets was to blame for Mascherano being sent off and Pedro looked sharp coming off the bench.
The beginning of another run towards every possible title, and maybe more than anything Barcelona need some fresh blood, an incentive and enthusiasm. Last year’s relative failure might be enough of a motivation, but knowing that this is just the beginning, as both Luis Suarez and Neymar weren’t even on the pitch should give last year’s runners-up a lot of confidence going forward.