Barcelona vs. Granada: Winners and Losers from La Liga
Barcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga with a thumping 4-0 victory over Granada at Camp Nou, though the margin of victory could easily have been far more.
After the break it was more one-way traffic for the most part, with Messi eventually sealing his hat-trick after Neymar had hit the woodwork—then the Brazilian himself wrapped things up late on.
Here are all our winners and losers from the game.
Of course, Barcelona were the impressive side and Granada were cut apart with ease and with frequency, but a word first for their on-loan centre-back Doria.
The Marseille-owned Brazilian was excellent throughout, making a number of interceptions and last-ditch tackles to stop Barcelona having even more clear chances on goal than they already managed.
While David Lomban and Diego Mainz floundered beside him at times, Doria was composed on the ball, determined in his defensive work and provides hope that the porous Granada defence could yet tighten up somewhat.
Loser: Jose Ramon Sandoval
Granada manager Jose Ramon Sandoval changed systems recently from a back four to a 3-5-2 system, utilising his attacking talents Adalberto Penaranda and Isaac Success in tandem with the creative likes of Rene Krhin and Ruben Rochina playing deeper.
It has improved performances overall, but against the best team on the planet, it left Granada woefully unbalanced and exposed.
The midfield trio were continually passed through, then they were too busy chasing back to really support the front two—with the infrequent exception of Rochina.
Sandoval made a half-time switch that didn't really help at either end, and his side, with 36 now conceded—the second highest in La Liga—remain just outside the relegation zone.
Thankfully for him and Granada, their safety won't be determined by this type of opponent.
Winner: Lionel Messi
Superb all round. Neymar and Luis Suarez definitely played their part and were excellent in build-up play, but Lionel Messi was the star of the show this time out.
All three combined superbly for the second goal—Neymar cross, Suarez volley assist and Messi finish—but the No. 10 was full of moments of genius and creativity throughout, chipping passes or dribbling past a defender with great frequency and ease.
Messi netted twice in the first half and once in the second to net a hat-trick and move from six to nine for the campaign in league goals—six off Suarez and Neymar, who are the current Pichichi leaders. Don't bet against Messi catching them up before the end of the season.
Loser: Marc Bartra?
Games against those at the bottom of the table provide an opportunity to rotate players in the starting XI. Luis Enrique typically includes his defence in that policy, with Marc Bartra usually playing against the likes of Levante, Las Palmas and so on—but against Granada, he wasn't even on the bench.
In fact, having only been on the bench in the Copa del Rey in midweek, Bartra has only played in two of the last nine matches: the UEFA Champions League dead-rubber against Bayer Leverkusen and half an hour as sub against Real Betis. He's had just 64 minutes of La Liga action since October 25.
If he's hoping to make the Spain UEFA Euro 2016 squad, he's going to need much more than this. The availability of Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, as well as Thomas Vermaelen's return to form and fitness, are going to severely limit his impact.
Winner: Arda Turan
Turkish midfielder Arda Turan played 72 minutes and was largely impressive throughout on his Liga debut for Barcelona.
He created the first goal just a few minutes into the match and almost added a goal of his own moments later, only for Doria to provide the last-ditch tackle on that occasion.
Turan's passing and vision down the left channel was excellent and his movement was aggressive—an important factor in Barcelona's midfield that they could do with a little more of. That's Turan's "selling point" in terms of trying to get in the lineup regularly—and end product doesn't hurt, either.