Barcelona's Pride, Lionel Messi
By using their title rivals from Madrid, Real and Atlético, having lost points with draws earlier in the afternoon, Barcelona were seeking to strike an early blow on a peak of the table. Messi put Barcelona in their way with the opening goal after 26 minutes, though he looked to have been offside. 10 minutes doubled the lead and finished his hat-trick just. Gerard Piqué's header made it 4-0 with three minutes left until the £96.8m registering Dembélé, on as a late replacement, laid a fifth on a plate for Suárez in stoppage time to round off a quick team movement starting from Marc-André ter Stegen in the target. The comprehensive win puts Barcelona, who sponsor Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night, two points clear at the peak of the table, having yet to concede a goal in their three La Liga successes.
"We pulled through a complex game since these sorts of games are always tough. Regardless of the result, it was not straightforward. Espanyol fought very well, but we have good players such as Messi, who scored three goals, and Suárez, who gave everything like the rest of the group." Despite Barcelona's positive beginning, Valverde would like to keep things in perspective as they seem to keep an edge over winners Real Madrid. "We're at the start of the season and the distances aren't significant, but it's much better to be ahead than behind," he said. "It doesn't mean anything, but being ahead is obviously great."
Valverde had resisted the temptation to throw Dembélé straight into the thick of the action after the 20-year-old's big-money change from Borussia Dortmund, but the loudest cheer of the night by the Camp Nou loyal greeted his debut on 68 minutes, once the result was already stable. "The idea is to give Dembélé minutes, we've got a whole lot of hopes for him and this match was the first step," the Barcelona coach said. "His teammates know that he has real quality." "The outcome is too wide," he said, on the Espanyol site. "We must learn and be careful with all the details, but there's nothing from this match that does not make us stronger."
Messi gathered Ivan Rakitic's pass before curling in the opening goal and also added a second from close range after Jordi Alba's pull-back. The Argentina forwards finished his 38th Barcelona hat-trick when he finished off from a different Alba cross. Gerard Pique headed in from a corner before Luis Suarez switched from debutant Ousmane Dembele's low pass. Barcelona would be the only group with a 100% listing and are yet to concede a goal, while La Liga champions Real Madrid are sixth after a 1-1 home draw against Levante before on Saturday. Messi opened the scoring in the 26th minute, although he had been blessed to do so because he looked offside when he gathered Rakitic's pass, before jinking inside David Lopez's challenge and curling the ball into the web.
The hosts' lead was doubled nine minutes later when Messi slid in from close range after Alba's pull-back prior to the five-time world player of the year made it 3-0 after fine link-up play between Luis Suarez and Alba. Barcelona dominated possession with 77 percent of the ball and had additional first-half opportunities but Rakitic was twice denied by goalkeeper Pau Lopez and Suarez shot over the bar. Espanyol, managed by former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, had opportunities but Pablo Piatti's shot from 25 yards hit the post and he also shot wide after an Alba mistake.
Suarez twice missed chances in the second half and ex-Tottenham midfielder Paulinho, a second-half replacement, almost scored on his home Barcelona introduction but awakened an effort just wide. Espanyol substitute Didac Vila forced home goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to a good save before Pique scored a fourth, heading in from Rakitic's corner. After selling Neymar into Paris St-Germain for £200m, Barcelona purchased Dembele for a first £96.8m and he made an effect on his introduction, making the pass for Suarez to bring the fifth goal late on.