Barcelona returned to winning ways following their 1-0 Copa del Rey defeat to Espanyol in midweek with a 5-0 win at Real Betis on Sunday evening, extending their current league unbeaten run to 26 games.
Following a respectful first-half from both sides, the B
Me everytime I watch Messi.. — Toni Duggan (@toniduggan) January 21, 2018
It was a courageous start from the hosts inside the rocking, capacity-brimmed
Sergi Roberto during the first half:— CE Stats (@CEStats) January 21, 2018
Passes (Acc.): 26 (93%)
Key passes: 1
Dribbles completed: 3
Duels won: 5
#RealBetisBarca HT 0-0: Both sides' high defensive line seemingly cancelling one another out. Neither found their rhythm yet. Sergi Roberto looks the sharpest player on the pitch for the visitors, while Andre Gomes continues to seem square peg round hole-esque in a #Barca shirt.— Joe Owens (@joejournosun) January 21, 2018
The second 45 began in a similar vein to the first, with Betis' high press and disciplined defensive pressure telling by the lack of creativity the visitors were afforded.
However, just as the clock ticked towards the hour-mark, the hosts' resilience was finally broken, as Rakitic opened the scoring thanks mainly to a beautifully weighted through ball from Suarez.
The Uruguayan for really the first time of the evening was allowed to find space on the half-way line, which he took advantage of by turning before spotting the run of his midfield teammate and sliding his pass into the acres of space behind the defence, which the 29-year-old latched onto before calmly tucking his effort past the advancing Adan to give his side the lead.
Fantastically cool finish from Rakitić, who'll enjoy that more than most being ex-Sevilla!— TalkFCB (@FCBNewsRoom) January 21, 2018
This season, the Beticos have been suspect to a slight collapse after going behind, and their rather erratic and risky style of play was punished again less than five minutes later, as Messi doubled Barcelona's advantage.
Fabian Ruiz Pena's sluggish attempt of offloading possession halfway inside his own half was capatalised on by Barca's
Picture of Busquets passing the ball to Messi. pic.twitter.com/l7cK7lbljk— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) January 21, 2018
And that is that. Real Betis 0-3 Barcelona. Luis Suárez scores for the 7th successive #LaLiga game, and it's 11 in his last 9. Betis don't deserve this scoreline, but it could yet get worse with just under 20 minutes to go...— David Garrido (@SkySportsDavid) January 21, 2018
But as has been the case all season, Barcelona's ruthlessness in front of goal knew no bounds, as Messi was on hand to take advantage of some sloppy Beticos passing before rounding two retreating defenders and sliding his shot past the helpless Adan.
The hosts' humiliation was truly complete as the tie entered its final minute of normal time, as Suarez grabbed his second of the night, and the La Liga leaders' fifth, as the Uruguay international smashed his effort into the roof of the net after being fed by Messi inside the area.
The result, following both Atletico Madrid and Valencia dropping points earlier in the weekend, could well be the one to sew up the Spanish top-flight title, with Valverde's outfit now holding an 11-point advantage as the games begin to dwindle away for the chasing pack.