Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez Punish Real Betis in Barcelona's 4-1 Win in La LigaMarch 17, 2019
Barcelona opened up a 10-point lead at the top of La Liga after winning 4-1 away to Real Betis on Sunday.
Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick, and Luis Suarez scored a superb solo goal at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, as the Blaugrana took full advantage of nearest rivals Atletico Madrid losing 2-0 away to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Substitute Loren Moron netted a consolation for a Betis side cultured in possession but unable to contain Barca's star power in the final third.
Luis Suarez Is the Best No. 9 on the Planet
Barca will hope the apparent ankle injury Suarez hobbled toward the substitutes bench with late on isn't serious. The Blaugrana don't want to be without the best No. 9 on the planet for long.
It defies belief Suarez has been doubted so often this season, even if he's 32 and misses some chances he should take.
Weighty statements like "best on the planet" usually require a tome's worth of words to back them up. Honestly, though, you could just look at the sublime assist Suarez played for Messi's second goal in first-half stoppage time and have all the proof you need:
It was the seventh assist in all competitions for the Uruguay international so far this season. The deft piece of improv offered a reminder of the link play separating Suarez from most goalscorers on the continent.
He's just as adept creating chances as he is taking them. There is a flair and guile to Suarez's game his nearest equivalents, Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, simply can't match.
He has refined his style to become a mix between a traditional 9 and a classic No. 10 in a way out-and-out goalscorers such as Tottenham Hotspur frontman Harry Kane or Manchester City's Sergio Aguero could likely never manage.
Goals haven't exactly dried up for the South American, who has 21 to his credit during this campaign after his stunning solo effort from the halfway line in Betis.
Suarez has yet to find the net in this season's UEFA Champions League, but it would take a brave person to bet against the former Liverpool man tormenting Manchester United in the last eight.
There isn't a more versatile, inventive or ruthless central striker in Sunday's game.
Arthur Has Made Philippe Coutinho Irrelevant at Barca
You can forgive Barcelona for being surprised about how influential Arthur Melo has become at the heart of midfield. The Blaugrana naturally would have thought another Brazilian would define their possession play, namely ex-Liverpool schemer Philippe Coutinho.
Instead, it's no surprise Barca are reportedly prepared to sell the player who cost the club £142 million back in January 2018, per Marca's M.Carmen Torres and Padraig Whelan.
Arthur has become the hub of possession while Coutinho has floundered. The artful and intuitive No. 8 recently proved his worth during the 5-1 win over Lyon in the UEFAChampions League last 16.
The 22-year-old continued in the same vein against Betis. He moved the ball with a unflustered intelligence, trusting his vision to routinely pick the best option during 64 classy minutes of action.
With Sergio Busquets shielding the defence behind him and Arturo Vidal seeking and destroying ahead of him, Arthur had the time and space to keep things ticking over with the minimum of fuss.
Barca don't rely on bossing possession as much under manager Ernesto Valverde. Even so, Arthur is offering the technique and guile common during the era of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Valverde hoped Coutinho would bring those qualities, but it's the less-heralded Brazilian who is proving to be the most important member of the Barcelona midfield.
Barcelona host Espanyol in the derby on Saturday, March 30, while Betis travel to Rayo Vallecano a day later.