Lionel Messi hit top gear against Eibar on Tuesday as the Barcelona star hit four of his side's goals in a 6-1 victory, ensuring another busy night for the stats men.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde made six changes from the weekend's victory over Getafe, with Luis Suarez dropping to the bench in the most notable move. There were starts for Lucas Digne, Nelson Semedo, Javier Mascherano, Paulinho, Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu.
Eibar started the game as the brighter of the two teams and should have taken the lead when Sergi Enrich found himself one-on-one with Marc-Andre ter Stegen. However, the Spaniard failed to convert, hitting the ball straight at the German keeper.
The underdogs were soon punished for their sloppy finishing, as Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo burst into the box and was brought down clumsily by Eibar centre-back Alejandro Galvez.
Messi stepped up took the resulting penalty and nonchalantly lifted the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net. The goal ensured that Messi continued his streak of scoring in every game he has played against Eibar, making it nine in six games.
The goal changed the rhythm of the game and Barcelona started to gain control of the ball. In the absence of Luis Suarez, Messi deployed a false nine role and relied on Gerard Deulofeu to make forward runs from the right as he dropped deeper to pick up the ball.
The control soon led to a second goal, as Denis Suarez's corner was headed in by new signing Paulinho. It was the Brazilian's second goal in as many games as he continued to shrug off his critics and endear himself to the Nou Camp faithful.
Paulinho: Has scored two league goals in 70 mins of action for Barcelona, as many as he netted in his last 32 PL matches for Spurs combined— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 19, 2017
Barcelona went into the break on a high and started the second half with another, as Lionel Messi's shot rebounded to Denis Suarez, who slammed home a finish from seven yards. Paulinho was again influential with a crucial dummy to set Messi free in the build-up, proving that he's not just a finisher.
As the game threatened to become a whitewash, the visitors went off-piste. Enrich, who missed an earlier sitter, tucked home a cross from the left to score his first goal of the season.
Their smiles lasted a matter of minutes, however, as Messi found the bottom corner with what can only be described as a pass-like finish. It was calm, controlled and stroked home with such ease that it made anyone think they could have done it.
Lionel Messi has now scored 300 goals at Camp Nou for Barcelona.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 19, 2017
Home sweet home. pic.twitter.com/wxYur6gf4r
The next line of the script writes itself: Messi soon completed his hat-trick, combining with Paulinho before shrugging off three Eibar defenders at full pace to slide home Barca's fifth of the night. It was vintage Messi and his 300th goal in 180 Nou Camp appearances.
As the game looked to be petering out, Messi ignited the flame once more. Taking it past two Eibar defenders, the Argentinean star played a one-two with substitute Aleix Vidal before guiding a first-time finish into the top left corner. It was his 43rd goal of 2017 and his ninth goal in five La Liga matches.
Leo Messi has scored 9 league goals in five games this season; only two Premier League clubs have managed more. pic.twitter.com/FkP49FOMFY— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) September 19, 2017
The game finished 6-1 and ensured that Ernesto Valverde's men continued their 100% start to the season. It's an excellent start for the former Atheltic Bilbao manager, who began the season under pressure following the disappointing Super Cup loss to Real Madrid.
Their rivals will see if they can keep up with Barca on Wednesday at home to Real Betis.