Barcelona began the defence of their LaLiga title in ominous fashion on Saturday, with Lionel Messi and hat-trick hero Luis Suarez starring in a 6-2 demolition of Real Betis at Camp Nou.
Suarez and Messi netted 66 league goals between them last term and began the new campaign as they meant to go on, leading from the front and causing havoc as the Betis defence struggled to cope.
Barca’s star duo were without Neymar due to his involvement in the Olympics, but Arda Turan continued his renaissance in the Brazilian’s absence by opening the scoring – his third goal in two games after a brace against Sevilla in the Supercopa de Espana on Wednesday.
Ruben Castro’s bullet of a free-kick restored parity briefly, but a quick-fire double from Messi and Suarez just before the break effectively killed off Betis’ chances.
Messi supplied Suarez with his next early in the second half before then blasting in another of his own from distance.
Suarez completed his treble with a delightful free-kick eight minutes from time, as new Betis coach Gus Poyet was given a harsh lesson in his first game in charge of the Andalusians, despite Castro’s late second.
Injured Barca captain Andres Iniesta and Messi were finally presented with last season’s LaLiga trophy before kick-off, and those celebrations were followed by further jubilation just six minutes in as the hosts broke the deadlock.
Messi’s deep cross picked out the run of Jordi Alba and the left-back teed up Arda, who stabbed home from close range with the outside of his right foot.
That joy was short-lived, though, as Betis drew level 15 minutes later thanks to a ferocious 20-yard Castro free-kick which found the top-right corner.
Barca piled on the pressure in response and almost restored their lead in the 29th minute, only for the crossbar to deny Messi from 12 yards.
Messi found his range eight minutes before the break, however, lashing a fine strike beyond the helpless Antonio Adan from 25 yards.
And Adan was beaten again just a few moments later – Suarez meeting Sergi Roberto’s cut-back with an exquisite first-time finish into the far corner.
Barca increased their cushion 11 minutes into the second half, with Messi leading a counter-attack and then squaring across goal to give Suarez an easy finish after linking cleverly with Arda.
Messi then did it all by himself a minute later, skipping past a tame challenge before thrashing a blistering strike into the bottom-right corner from 30 yards.
Suarez emphatically completed his hat-trick with a stunning free-kick from 25 yards in the 82nd minute and, although Castro netted a late consolation for Betis, Barca secured a remarkable opening-day triumph, laying down a clear marker for likely title rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Key Opta stats:
– Luis Suarez has scored in each of his last six games for Barcelona in La Liga (17 goals).
– Lionel Messi has scored 46 goals from outside the box in La Liga, at least seven more than any other current player.
– Luis Suarez has scored more hat-tricks than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues since last season (seven).
– Barcelona have won their last six league games, scoring 30 goals and conceding only two.
– Luis Suarez has scored his first direct free-kick goal for Barcelona in La Liga with his second attempt.
– Arda Turan has scored more goals in his last two Barcelona games (3) than he did in his previous 27 (2, all competitions).