Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez Punish Real Betis in Barcelona's 4-1 Win in La Liga

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MARCH 17: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the La Liga match between Real Betis Balompie and FC Barcelona at Estadio Benito Villamarin on March 17, 2019 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

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.

Ryan Baldi @RyanBaldiFW

Not sure there’s a player who veers as dramatically between the ridiculous and the sublime as Luis Suárez these days. Outstanding vs Lyon in midweek; two left feet tonight

Sid Lowe @sidlowe

Suarez misses a sitter... so easy... move that started with brilliant pass from Ter Stegen

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:

Eleven Sports @ElevenSports_UK

| GOAL! | Messi scores his second! That Suarez assist... 😍 #LaLiga https://t.co/zluQ2IqJj8


WATCH: Messi makes it ✌️ with the last kick of the first half. A beautiful back-heel assist from @LuisSuarez9 sets up the @FCBarcelona captain to complete his brace 👀⏯ #RealBetisBarca https://t.co/K7JrFIBqYp

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.

OptaJose @OptaJose

3 - Luis Suárez is the third @LaLigaEN player to record double figures for both goals (20) and assists (10) this season in all comps, after Lionel Messi (38 & 18) and Pablo Sarabia (19 & 11). Versatile. https://t.co/iPG3i1jxQz

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.

OptaJose @OptaJose

128 - Luis Suárez has equaled Diego Forlan’s 128 goals in LaLiga, the most by a player from Uruguay in @LaLigaEN history. Celeste. https://t.co/IWbR9XP2yx

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.

Mark Lovell @LovellLowdown

Robert Lewandowski has failed to score in seven consecutive Champions League knockout games. #bayernexit

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.

Squawka Football @Squawka

Arthur misplaced just ONE pass vs. Lyon: • 73 minutes • 72 attempted • 71 completed 98.6% pass accuracy. 🤤 https://t.co/SoqvBIEjFg

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.


What's Next?

Barcelona host Espanyol in the derby on Saturday, March 30, while Betis travel to Rayo Vallecano a day later.