Having drawn three of their last four league matches, Barcelona hoped to reencounter their winning form at an unusually warm January afternoon in the Camp Nou. 


Making four changes to the seemingly exhausted side that was held to a goalless draw at the Cuidad Corneat, Luis Enrique opted for a slightly more attacking starting XI against Granada. Thomas Vermaelen made a rare appearance for the blaugrana over Mascherano, while Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan made their La Liga debuts as Dani Alves and Iniesta joined the substitutes.


Granada, who have caught recent headlines with 18 year old Venezuelan striker Adalberto Peñaranda bagging four goals in seven appearances, began the game hoping to set an ambitious pace with Rochina’s first minute strike sailing over the bar.


Jose Sandoval’s side ended 2015 with a victory against Sevilla at Los Carmenes, and came out pressing high in hopes of a blaugrana slip-up, but paid the price early on. Granada’s broken back line immediately showed its vulnerability when Turan connected with Messi’s splicing run into the penalty to score Barcelona’s first goal in the eighth minute.


The first half left particularly good sensations for Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, who seemed to gel effortlessly into the Barca squad from the first whistle. Meanwhile, Granada continued to fall behind as the half progressed, leaving space between their first two lines, quickly gobbled up by MSN once again in the 24th minute as the trio treated the crowd to a wonderful three-touch exhibition that ended in a casual Messi finish for Barça’s second.


Sandoval’s side seemed particularly troubled in the back line, with Doria failing to keep up with Messi and Suarez leading up to the first and second goals, respectively. Granada, who had began the match playing three in the back, opted for a more defensive approach in the second half, with defender Diego Mainz coming on for former Inter Milan midfielder Rene Krhin.

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Granada began to regain their composure after halftime, and found themselves holding slightly more possession, but were broken once again in the 58th minute. Neymar’s close range shot was deflected onto Granada’s post and poked in by Messi, who reaches nine league goals this season with his hat trick.


The match slowed down over the second half as Granada settled defensively, but Neymar got his own goal in the 82nd minute, casually lifting the ball over Andres Fernandez after receiving a pass across the box from Suarez, who claimed two assists but was unable to score. Luis Enrique’s men cruise to another La Liga win, hoping to put their poor league form behind them in 2016.


Barcelona move provisionally to first place with 18 games played, a point over Atletico Madrid and five above Real, who host Deportivo La Coruña later today.