Coach Quique Setien said on Friday that his players are in much better shape than expected given how long it has been since they played a game. Teams in Spain weren’t even allowed to play friendlies before La Liga returned this week but that didn’t seem to affect Barca, who showed that Setien wasn’t lying with an assured performance in Mallorca.
They started quickly, pressed diligently and created good chances throughout the game. With 10 games to go after this one, the signs are promising that they will be able to win a third successive league title.
Most importantly, some of the team’s veterans looked refreshed, namely Alba, Messi and Sergio Busquets, while Luis Suarez and Arthur Melo both returned from injuries that had sidelined them before the league was paused.
Takefusa Kubo was at Barca’s academy as a kid and the club had the chance to sign him again last year. They dallied, though, and decided against doing the deal, allowing Real Madrid to swoop in. Now on loan at Mallorca, he produced a performance to suggest Barca may regret not bringing him back.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Setien got his tactics spot on, with his side starting fast and overloading down Mallorca’s left-hand side, where the home side have an injury crisis. Used his substitutes well, too, and showed good game management to kill the game off in the second half.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 — Almost Barca’s third centre-back with the ball, pushing up between Pique and Araujo to play out from the back, ending the game with 64 successful passes from 68 attempted. Two good saves from Kubo, too.
DF Sergi Roberto, 6 — Made intelligent runs and was often found by Messi, but his pull backs and crosses were lacking in quality.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 — Eased through the game and talked Araujo, who was making his full debut for the first team, through it. One of the players who may well benefit from the break in action.
DF Ronaldo Araujo, 6 — Not quite a defender in the traditional Barca mould yet but he did OK. Almost scored in the second half. However, Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet won’t be fearing for their places just yet.
DF Jordi Alba, 8 — The left-back’s attacking output, compared to last season, had dipped this year, but he was returned with a bang here. Set up the first for Alba and brilliantly took the third after being sent through by Messi with an effort reminiscent of the goal he scored for Spain in the Euro 2012 final. Also booked, so will miss Leganes on Tuesday.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 — Didn’t seem to break a sweat with a classy performance which included an aerial back heel on the edge of the box in the first half.
MF Frenkie de Jong, 7 — Robbed the ball back for the first goal and his driving runs forward — an area of his game he’s improved this season — caused Mallorca problems.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 — Opened the scoring after just 65 seconds with his seventh league goal of a productive campaign. That was the highlight of his night, though, as he was taken off at the break in what looked like a pre-planned change. Also booked.
FW Lionel Messi, 9 — Considering the circumstances (three months without a game, coming off the back of a thigh problem, 33 this month) this was another superb Messi performance. A threat whenever he had the ball, setting up goals for Braithwaite and Alba and scoring his own late on.
FW Martin Braithwaite, 7 — Scored his first goal for Barca in just his second start, finishing well from Messi’s headed pass. Could have had a second, again from a Messi pass, but was brilliantly denied Manolo Reina.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 — Barca still need him to contribute more in attack but his defensive work should not be ignored. Taken off before the hour for Suarez.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 — Replaced Vidal at half-time for his 300th appearance for the club in all competitions.
FW Luis Suarez, 6 — Made his first appearance for five months after undergoing surgery on his knee in January. The minutes, more than the performance, were what was important.
DF Nelson Semedo, NR
MF Arthur Melo, NR
DF Junior Firpo, NR