Barcelona destroyed Real Madrid without needing Lionel Messi in Saturday’s Clasico. La Liga leaders Barca were 3-0 up before Messi was introduced off the bench at the Bernabeu.
Messi had been out injured since September, but, with Luis Suarez and Neymar in fine form, his absence has not caused Luis Enrique to lose much sleep at all.
It was Suarez who broke through first against Real, opening the scoring on 11 minutes with his 10th goal in 11 league games.
Neymar scored Barca’s second shortly before half time. And it was nothing less than the dominant visitors deserved.
Andres Iniesta ran at Real’s defence, with Suarez and Neymar offering options either side of him. He opted to play in Neymar, who justified that decision.
Neymar returned the favour to Iniesta after the break.
A delicate flick rolled the ball into the path of the legendary Spain midfielder, who smashed home from outside the 18-yard box.
Moments after Barca’s third hit the net, Real’s task got even harder – because Messi made his long-awaited return.
Messi looked sharp and was involved in the build-up to Suarez’s second goal, which came when the former Liverpool man lobbed Keylor Navas one-on-one.
A Clasico is not really a Clasico unless someone gets sent off. Fortunately, Isco honoured this tradition when his horrible hack on Neymar earned him a straight red card.
Barca are now six points clear of Real at the top of the La Liga table, but this display suggest that the gulf is class between the sides is even greater than that.