At Son Moix on Saturday evening, FC Barcelona took on RCD Mallorca in their return to La Liga with a 4-0 win. This marks the perfect return to action after Spanish football’s three-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Clement Lenglet suspended, Samuel Umtiti was expected to get the nod in central defense. Instead, however, youngster Ronald Araujo partnered Gerard Pique while Martin Braithwaite formed a trio up top with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann in favor of Luis Suarez.
In midfield, Arturo Vidal stood in front of pivot Sergio Busquets alongside Frenkie de Jong.
Barça continued to dominate the opening 20 minutes. Enjoying 77% possession and putting together 182 passes, Setien’s men pressed high and hardly gave the hosts a look in. There were additional chances for Braithwaite and Griezmann too, who both worked well in tandem with a Messi well up for this one.
The champions got off to a flying start when Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal scored with a diving header in the second minute, while Danish international Martin Braithwaite scored his first goal for Barca later in the first half.
Jordi Alba then added a third goal for Barca in the 79th minute after latching on to a through ball from Messi, who had also set up Braithwaite’s goal. The Argentine then completed the scoring with a deflected strike in stoppage time.
The win takes Barca on to 61 points after 28 games, five clear of nearest challengers Real Madrid, who host Eibar on Sunday in their first game back. The pressure is now on Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid, then, who must beat Eibar tomorrow afternoon to reduce it back to a mere two.
Messi finished the job off as he scored and grabbed two assists. Cutting in on his right foot and not the left, Captain Marvel was assisted by Suarez to seal a 4-0 victory in stoppage time through his top corner chip. Just the two assists and a goal for the Ballon d’Or winner operating at a steady half pace.
The game was played behind closed doors to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus, but a fan wearing an Argentina shirt somehow made it on to the pitch, only to be swiftly taken away by security guards.
Luis Suarez made his first appearance since injuring his knee six months ago, coming off the bench in the second half, while his fellow Uruguayan Ronald Araujo hit the post shortly before Alba struck.
Mallorca occupies the final relegation spot in La Liga but despite the heavy loss, they gave a decent account of themselves, with 19-year-old Japanese playmaker Takefusa Kubo pulling the strings.
Kubo tested Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the first half while Ante Budimir, Lago Junior, and Abdon Prats all flashed shots just wide of the target after the interval.
It had been a good, clean fight with not a single foul called until around the half hour mark when Vidal was booked. The incident allowed Kubo to have another crack at Ter Stegen, this time in a dead ball situation, and the Japanese youngster’s attempt went under the wall before being parried out and cleared.