The Catalans’ famous front three were all on target in a 5-0 win over Levante in February, with Neymar and Luis Suarez netting either side of a Lionel Messi hat-trick. Messi was given to much time in the box and was able to pick out Marc Bartra at the far post, the defender controlling the ball on his chest before side footing home.
It came when goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, starting in the absence of Claudio Bravo, failed to clear a cross which substitute Victor knocked into the German’s net.
After the game opened up Neymar finished clinically after 55 minutes and won a penalty on the hour which was converted by Messi.
“He isn’t human because he scored two goals and provided an assist”, Barca boss Luis Enrique joked when asked if Messi’s struggles from the spot proved he is fallible. “There is very little that makes him seem human”. By that time, youth graduate Gerard Gumbau had replaced Busquets for his debut.
Enrique had spoken of Levante getting as many players behind the ball as possible, but his shift in tactics did not work in a disjointed first half when Barca were profligate in possession and missed the intelligence of Suarez.
Messi also sent a free-kick over the bar and then created an opportunity for Neymar after Levante for once allowed themselves to get stretched, but the Brazilian winger shot disappointingly wide. This was Messi’s sixth penalty miss in 12 attempts, and the 15 of his career.
Barca will miss three players due to injuries and one player serving a suspension when they take on Les Granotes, SB Nation reported.
Striker Manuel Nolito and midfielder Daniel Wass scored a goal each Sunday as Celta Vigo defeated Sevilla 2-1 to join Real Madrid atop the Spanish league.
Villarreal moved to third place by beating Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at its El Madrigal Stadium with goals by Bruno Soriano in the 43rd, Mario Gaspar in the 67th and Leo Baptistao in the 80th.
And Sporting Gijon claimed their first victory since returning to the top flight with a 3-2 win in a thrilling encounter away at Deportivo la Coruna.