BARCELONA: Lionel Messi and hat-trick hero Luis Suarez were in sensational form as they helped Barcelona start their title defense with a crushing 6-2 win over Real Betis at the Camp Nou on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Messi scored twice and set up another goal, dominating proceedings, while Suarez added three of his own after Arda Turan’s opener.
Ruben Castro struck a brace for Betis but at no stage of the game did it seem like the visitors had enough to prevent Luis Enrique’s team from running amok on the opening day of the new Spanish season.
Asked if he was surprised about Messi hitting the ground running this season after the trauma of losing the Copa America final with Argentina, Luis Enrique replied: “No, no. He’s Lionel Messi. He’s always the same.
“If he and Luis (Suarez) get involved with the rest of the team, you can only say that they enjoy it.”
Betis coach Gus Poyet admitted he wished Messi hadn’t been so brutally effective against his team.
“As a football fan I enjoyed Messi. Playing against him, you don’t want him to do so well. Messi’s goal destabilized us and from there it is complicated to play football here,” he said.
“If you want to go and win the game they will score five or six against you. It happens a lot here.
“As a team or a group we have to be mentally strong to continue in the same way, confident in all the aspects of our play.”
New signings Samuel Umtiti and Denis Suarez started for Barcelona, standing in for Javier Mascherano and Andres Iniesta respectively, as Barcelona battled with a long list of absences.
Regardless, it took just five minutes for the hosts to open the scoring, with Turan putting the finishing touch on a fine move. Messi scooped the ball diagonally into the area, finding the marauding Jordi Alba, who cut it back for Turan to prod home.
Along with his two strikes against Sevilla that sealed Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup win last week, the goal meant he has already scored more this season than he did in his disappointing debut campaign with Barcelona.
While Turan is starting to come to life in a Barca shirt, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is set to end his time at the Camp Nou, with a move to Manchester City close.