Barcelona opened up their 2020-21 La Liga season in some style on Sunday night, sweeping Unai Emery’s Villarreal aside 4-0 at the Camp Nou.
Teenage forward Ansu Fati was the star of the show with two goals and an assist, while captain Lionel Messi netted a penalty, and a Pau Torres own goal wrapped up the win.
The result was the perfect tonic for Barcelona and new coach Ronald Koeman after a chaotic summer both on and off the pitch and gets the team off to a strong start to the new campaign.
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Ansu Fati Is Something Else
Fati enjoyed a stunning breakthrough season for Barcelona in 2019-20 and simply picked up where he left off on Sunday. The 17-year-old opened the scoring with a brilliant finish and then bagged his second with a cool strike four minutes later.
He wasn’t done there either though. Another run into the box saw him upended, a penalty awarded, and Barcelona handed the chance to make it 3-0. Captain Messi made no mistake from the spot.
7 – Between @FCBarcelona and Spain, Ansu Fati 🇪🇸 has scored seven goals in his last nine starts in all competitions, scoring with his nine shots on target and winning two penalties in his last two starts. Amazing. pic.twitter.com/rmKrPnTSzV
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 27, 2020
The youngster’s composure, finishing ability, and movement are truly impressive, particularly given he will not turn 18 until October, and offers Barcelona huge optimism for the future.
Koeman Off To A Flyer
New coach Koeman has had plenty to cope with since replacing Quique Setien in the hot seat. The Dutchman has overseen the departures of Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, and Nelson Semedo and has also had to cope with Messi asking to leave.
The former Netherlands boss has also been charged with picking up and rejuvenating a Barcelona team thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in August in what was one of the worst results in the club’s history.
Yet the early signs of Barcelona under Koeman are good. He could hardly have asked for a better first half, with his team going in 4-0 at the break, and for the first time in a long time, the team did not look quite so dependent on Messi.
Crisis? What Crisis?
Barcelona headed into the match full of doom and gloom after finishing last season empty-handed, changing managers for the second time in 2020 back in August, Messi’s future uncertain, and president Josep Maria Bartomeu facing a vote of no-confidence.
Yet Sunday’s result will have eased all talk of a crisis, at least on the pitch. Starlet Ansu Fati continued his remarkable rise with two more goals, Messi opened his account for the season, and the team’s much-maligned defense also keep a clean sheet.
Koeman was also able to rest some of his players in the second half and hand some youngsters a La Liga debut. New signings Francisco Trincao and Pedri both came on in the second half as well as Miralem Pjanic. Ousmane Dembele also came off the bench to offer a reminder of his talents.
Barcelona could hardly have asked for a better start to the season. There is obviously a long way still to go and far tougher challenges await, but Sunday’s performance was exactly what was required after a difficult summer.