Rampant Barcelona Make Easy Work of Valencia, Have One Foot in Spanish Cup Final

Jason PettigroveContributor IFebruary 4, 2016

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez did the damage on the night, but it was an incredible team performance from Barcelona.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez did the damage on the night, but it was an incredible team performance from Barcelona.David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona certainly didn't hang about in against Valencia in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final.

Two quick-fire Luis Suarez strikes before the quarter hour set the tone for what was to followa Blaugrana masterclass in passing, movement and finishing. Particularly in the first 45 minutes.

Los Che manager Gary Neville hasn't enjoyed the best time of it in La Liga, with the former Manchester United man still winless in that competition.

The Spanish Cup had given Neville and the club some respite from the pressures of league combat to this point, but his side were handed a lesson by a team that are widely regarded as the world's best.

Gary Neville's side were completely outplayed.
Gary Neville's side were completely outplayed.David Ramos/Getty Images

On this form you'd be hard pressed to disagree.

Indeed, it would be entirely wrong to suggest that the win was handed to Barca on a plate by a team that are woefully out of form. The Catalans were full value in what was one of their best performances for some time.

A win that puts them within two games of setting a new all-time club record of unbeaten matches. Pep Guardiola's vintage currently hold the mark with 28 games which the current side will equal at the weekend.

Can captain Andres Iniesta lead Barcelona to a new all-time unbeaten record?
Can captain Andres Iniesta lead Barcelona to a new all-time unbeaten record?Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Opponents Levante are propping up the table at present and haven't beaten the reigning champions since 2004, per Fussball Wettpoint.

In each of the last five games between the sides, Barca have scored at least four and should they continue to run riot, you'd have to feel for Levante.

The gulf in class against Valencia was frankly embarrassing at times, but perhaps it's still worth sounding a couple of notes of caution in advance of the second leg.

Denis Cheryshev, a second-half substitute who was given a hero's welcome at the Camp Nou when he took to the field, was unlucky to be flagged offside when sliding the ball home.

It may only have been a consolation, but it would've been one which laid bare Barca's defensive deficiencies again when the back four are not fully concentrated—against 10 men, let's not forget.

Such an impressive final score is likely to ensure safe passage to the final, but arguably Luis Enrique won't want his team to take his foot off of the gas in the second leg. Whoever pulls on the Blaugrana will be expected to give of their best.

Similarly, there's no real need to hand a penalty over to Neymar just because Suarez and Lionel Messi have already found their names on the scoresheet.

Those minor matters aside, the standard of this performance evidenced an XI totally in sync with each other from front to back. It was exhibition stuff at times.

Importantly, the high level of intensityeven at 5-0 upshould serve as an example to all. To exhibit such hunger and desire hints at just how seriously Barca take the successful retention of this trophy.

It was seven in the end, but with the woodwork rattled twice and numerous other half-chances missed, the final score could've been so much worse for Neville and Co.

What such a result does is allow Enrique the luxury of rotation of his staff, something that he was castigated for at times during the last campaign.

Luis Enrique will rotate his staff for the second leg.
Luis Enrique will rotate his staff for the second leg.David Ramos/Getty Images

By the end of February, Barca will have played a brutal 17 games since the turn of the year. At one of the most crucial stages of the season, Lucho will be able to rest whom he wishes for the best part of 180 minutes.

In some respects, that can be viewed as a reward for such a professional and polished performance from a team that continue to raise the bar as to what is possible on a football pitch.