FC Barcelona marked the return of Ousmane Dembele after a thigh injury and the new signing of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in style as they thrashed desperate Levante side 3-0 at the Camp Nou in an early Sunday kickoff. With both Atletico Madrid and Valencia winning their respective games on Saturday, the pressure stayed on Barcelonato win today inorder to maintain their seemingly insurmountable nine-point lead at the top of LaLiga table following an astounding unbeaten start to the first half of the season.
The FC Barcelona side made just two changes to the team that beat arch rivals Real Madrid 3-0 just before the Christmas eve, with Dembele coming in for suspended Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano replacing Gerard Pique. The home team contiinued where they left off, with a blistering Messi goal as a result of the Messi-Alba combination yet again. It has been a delight to watch the link up between the Argentinian and the Spaniard this season as the show continued with a Messi’s over the top ball on the left to Alba is set up for him yet again for a mind blowing off to the far post to make the scoreline look 1-0. During the process, Messi attracted a booking for Lerma as the Levante man fouled Messi just outside the box at the seventh minute. After the lead, FC Barcelona cruised to attack at intense manner, causing the Levante defense to suffer for every inch of space. The Barca attack finally secured the lead at the 38th minute as Luis Suarez blasted a stunning effort off the underside of the bar through a Sergi Roberto assist.
As Barcelona appeared on course for another routine three points, the much awaited man Dembele found himself heavily engaged in the possession with some sharp action in his first taste of action following a nearly four month injury after he was brought to the Catalan city this summer. Ernesto Valverde never looked to overdo anything today, as he eased off Dembele with Nelson Semedo in the 67th minute of the game, followed by other changes : Andre Gomes for Andres Iniesta in the 76th minute and Barca B sensation Jose Arnaiz for Sergi Roberto with five minutes of regular time on. After a comparativley weak second half display, Lionel Messi gave the home crowd a delight to watch, after he drifted past through two defenders to offer a no-look pass to Suarez-aided Paulinho to make the score 3-0 in the added time. With the little man up with the proceedings, Messi has equaled Gerd Muller’s record of 365 league goals for a single European Club.
With a constructive and impressive footballing display, FC Barcelona managed to restore the nine point lead on the top of the league table on a day Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi played their 650th and 400th appearance on the top flight. The hosts will now travel to Anoeta for another Liga fixture against Real Sociedad on January 15.