Barcelona 4-0 Espanyol: 6 Things We Learned
Barcelona made football look like child's play Sunday, strolling to a four-goal victory over sorry Espanyol in the local derby.
An early Xavi strike set them on their way, followed by a Pedro brace and a Lionel Messi penalty, all before the half-hour mark.
The win consolidates Tito Vilanova's side's position at the summit of the La Liga table, a lead they look by no means ready to concede.
Here are six things we learned in the one-sided encounter.
Start the Year as You Mean to Go On
2012 may not have been a stellar year by Barca's standards, but that doesn't mean the Catalan club can't win it all this year.
It may perhaps be too soon to start talking about Europe, but domestically, things couldn't be looking any brighter.
Lionel Messi's record-breaking 2012 form also carried into Sunday's game against Espanyol, the diminutive Argentine scoring one, and generally playing some fantastic football over the course of the 90 minutes.
It was as if the winter break had never happened.
Counterattacks Not Allowed Here
Having watched Espanyol terrorise Real Madrid on the counterattack a few weeks ago in their 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu, it was clear heading into Sunday's game that this was going to be the key to Barca keeping a clean sheet.
In the early stages of the game, the away side struggled to even break into the Barcelona half once, pegged back by a tide of red and blue shirts.
Espanyol did create a couple of chances late on, but this was only after the game had been put to bed by Pedro and Co.
Much is said of the Blaugranas' attacking efficiency, but the team can also be a terrific defensive one on their day (just don't mention Gerard Pique's horrific back pass, late on).
A Dodgy Day for Officials
Poor Pedro, you've got to feel sorry for the lad, don't you?
Not only was the Spanish forward one of the star performers Sunday, he was dreadfully unlucky not to bag a hat trick in the second half, seeing two goals incorrectly ruled out for offside.
The decisions were perhaps karma for the soft penalty won by Cesc Fabregas in the first half, but this is clearly no excuse for poor officiating.
Unfortunately, the officials' performance threatened to overshadow the game on several occasions.
Barcelona at Their Relentless Best
Though they have certainly faced sterner opposition in the past few months, Barca looked very close to their best for long periods, Sunday.
The pressure was relentless, their passing pinpoint; Espanyol had no answer whatsoever to the genius of Xavi and Co.
Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta continued to justify their Ballon d'Or nominations with some effervescent football, beating their markers one-on-one countless times throughout the game.
Say what you want about the Bundesliga's best, this is truly the best team in the world right now.
What Does the Future Hold for David Villa?
Contrasting media reports have the future of Barca's David Villa confused at present.
Goal.com currently claim that the out-of-favour forward is set to remain at the Camp Nou, at least until the summer, while several British tabloids believe that a move to Arsenal is on the cards (via Daily Mail).
Though left out of the starting lineup to face Espanyol, Villa came on as a substitute in the second half looking keen to score, if a little sluggish physically.
Fans of his will have to wait to see if he has a future in this world-class XI.
Welcome Back, Tito
Back on the sideline for the first time since having throat surgery to remove a tumour in December, Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova looked in good spirits Sunday, and not just because of the result.
The 44-year-old is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment, but showed great resolve and bravery to come back and lead his team into battle against Espanyol.
Club president Sandro Rosell spoke to Barca TV this past week, revealing "The doctors have given permission for him to come and after he will continue his recovery. He is determined to lead the team as long as the doctors allow him" (via Football365.com).
Fans, not just of Barca, will surely wish Vilanova a speedy recovery.
What did you make of Barca's crushing 4-0 win? Who stood out for you?