Barcelona responded in emphatic fashion after Real Madrid snatched the La Liga title from the Catalans in midweek, swatting Alaves aside in a 5-0 win away from home on Sunday.
The dethroned Barça saw their early dominance rewarded in the 24th minute when Ansu Fati neatly converted Lionel Messi’s deflected pass from close range.
Messi – still dripping with chilled water a matter of seconds after the first-half drinks break – toyed with Alaves goalkeeper Roberto Jiménez before rolling it past the West Ham loanee. Luis Suárez made it 3-0 on the cusp of half time to all but end the contest.
Riqui Puig stabbed through his second assist of the afternoon for second-half substitute Nelson Semedo to fire in Barça’s fourth before Messi netted his 25th La Liga goal of the season to wrap up the win.
Starting XI: Roberto (4); Martín (5), Laguardia (4), Magallán (6), Adrián Marín (5); Edgar (4), Camarasa (4), Manu (5), Burke (5); Joselu (5), Lucas Pérez (5).
Substitutes: Pons (6), Tachi (4), Rioja (5), Fejsa (5), Abdallahi (5).
Key Talking Point
In the sweltering Basque sunshine, Barcelona started the match brightly, pinging the ball around Mendizorrotza at a crisp tempo. The Catalans looked threatening every time they went forward, striking the woodwork three times in the opening 15 minutes.
The chances continued to flow as Barcelona were keen to snatch the ball off Alaves in the opposition half and rapidly throw their yellow shirts forward – as opposed to simply recycling possession which has often been the case.
Barcelona – having ceded their La Liga crown to Real Madrid in midweek – looked unshackled and free-flowing, particularly in the first half. Although this was somewhat dampened after the break as Alaves attempted to prevent a thrashing.
With just three outfield players on the bench to start the game, Arturo Vidal was forced into an unfamiliar role in defence as Clement Lenglet hobbled off in the second half – unsurprisingly, the Chilean adeptly dealt with the little defensive work which came his way.
Riqui Puig was one of several runners from deep which gave Barcelona a refreshing dynamism. The 20-year-old added another impressive performance to his staggering breakthrough campaign, notching up two assists – his first of the season.
Starting XI: Neto (7); Roberto (7), Araujo (7), Lenglet (6), Alba (8); Vidal (8), Busquets (7), Puig (8); Messi (9*), Suárez (6), Fati (8).
Substitutes: Semedo (7), De Jong (6), Braithwaite (5).
In a match where Messi reached 25 league goals for the 11th (yes, ELEVENTH) consecutive season, the staggering Argentinian also broke La Liga’s assist record with his 21st of the campaign, surpassing the tally set by his former teammate Xavi Hernández.
Even when Messi didn’t provide the final pass or decisive finish, his illustrious fingerprints were all over Barça’s move. The 33-year-old rolled back the years to find Jordi Alba – with a pass he attempts countless times each match – who effortlessly teed up Luis Suárez for the third goal of the game.
After confirming their La Liga survival in midweek, Alaves ended the elongated campaign with this defeat. Barcelona host Napoli in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie more than five months after the reverse fixture on 8 August, with the scores level at 1-1.