Messi 17, 37, 67, Iniesta 19, Ariadela (o.g.) 27, Pedro 35, Bojan 62,73
Barcelona capped their final pre-Classico preparations by ruthlessly demolishing Almeria in what turned out to be effectively a training session for the Blaugrana. Apart from the absence of Gerard Pique, Pep Guardiola chose a full strength starting XI to make sure no slip-ups were made before next Monday’s derby with Real Madrid. Pique was rested as he was walking the tightrope of risking suspension were he to pick up a yellow card, yet his replacement, the rookie Andreu Fontas, hardly found this match a step-up from B-team level.
Almeria seemed bereft of confidence from the beginning, and Barcelona soon began preying on this by toying with the home defence, stringing passes together with skill and speed too much to handle for anything but the world’s best defenders. The Blaugrana’s opening goal set the tone perfectly, as Lionel Messi played a one-two with David Villa before shooting home powerfully with sniper-like accuracy. This unplayable move was a catalyst for the way that the visitors would go on to stroll this game with such merciless finesse.
Javier Mascherano was again deployed in the holding role, allowing Xavi and Andres Iniesta free reign to create. This has proved a successful formula of late, and the two midfield maestros found themselves once again simply too good for their opposition. Iniesta’s quick pounce onto a deflection to tuck home for Barca’s second exemplified how he was a step ahead of the Almeria players every time. Almeria offered very little threat and Barcelona were afforded the luxury of taking off Xavi and Iniesta at half time to keep them in good shape for the derby – such was Barca’s dominance Dani Alves was able to operate more or less as a right-midfielder. Maxwell also partook in the odd venture forward, and when he did, the tireless Mascherano would drop back slotting in alongside Carles Puyol and Fontas to form a flexible three-man barrier should Almeria suddenly have attacked on the counter.
The Barcelona strikers gave coach Guardiola a welcome headache before the Classico, with Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and substitute Bojan Krkic all netting. David Villa was a surprise omission from the scoreboard considering the amount of goals scored, yet displayed enough movement and vibrancy to reassure fans that his tools are sharpened for Madrid. Unsurprisingly, it was Leo Messi who stole the show with his sixth hat-trick of 2010. Although his goals were not of the usual spectacular fashion, the Argentine wizard showed an abundance of the close control, balance and speed that makes him so unplayable.
Barcelona were always expected to win this fixture, especially given their run of seven straight away wins prior to kick-off. However, the margin of victory will have sent a chilling message to Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid – a message that suggests the Blaugrana are scoring freely and are ready to continue this habit when Los Blancos visit the Camp Nou next Monday.
2 Alves – 26 Fontas – 5 Puyol – 19 Maxwell
6 Xavi – 8 Iniesta
10 Messi – 7 Villa – 17 Pedro
46 – 15 Keita on for 6 Iniesta
46 – 30 Thiago on for 6 Xavi
53 – 9 Bojan on for 17 Pedro