Lionel Messi

La Liga: 3 Things We Learned as Barcelona Thrashed Eibar 5-0 at Camp Nou

Lionel Messi netted four goals, including a first-half hat-trick, as Barcelona put pressure on Real Madrid atop La Liga with a 5-0 win over Eibar at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

Messi fired the hosts ahead in the 14th minute with a superb effort and added two more quickfire goals in the 37th and 40th minutes to notch his 54th hat-trick for club and country. The Argentinian added a fourth in the 87th minute before Arthur Melo completed the rout two minutes later.

Barca are two points ahead of Los Blancos, who fell to a 1-0 loss to Levante last night. 

Here are the three things we learned as Barcelona beat Eibar 5-0.

3. Messi’s goal drought ends

The last goal Lionel Messi scored in La Liga came way back in the 1-0 win over Granada on the 19th of January, and despite assisting six times in the four matches since, the Barcelona captain had failed to find the back of the net. The little genius scored his first goal to break the deadlock in this game before adding a second and third to complete a lesser spotted first half hat-trick.

Messi needed just 40 minutes to score his third hat-trick of what has been another breathtaking individual campaign. That was the second-fastest hat-trick of his career (after doing so in 30 minutes against Mallorca in 2011) and his fourth of the evening took him to 18 league goals for the season.

2. Martin Braithwaite impresses on debut

Barcelona’s controversial new signing, Martin Braithwaite, was introduced with 20 minutes to go, and made an almost instant impact after coming on. It was his cross that Dmitrovic parried at Messi's feat for the Catalan giants' fourth and a rebound from his shot that Arthur turned in. Nearly all of Braithwaite’s cameo against Eibar was him hanging on the shoulder of the Eibar defence, ready to sprint in behind.

Braithwaite may not have that superstar quality Camp Nou has grown used to over the years, but a player who is willing to work hard, run into the channels and look to bring other players into play will really help Quique Setien’s team in the run-in. He didn't get a goal last evening, but if the Dane continues to perform as he did, he might just become the best winter transfer in La Liga, and wouldn’t that be something?

1. Title race blows open as Madrid fall to Levante

Real Madrid succumbed to a shock 1-0 defeat away to Levante thanks to a stunning strike from Jose Luis Morales, and Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar means Real now go into next Sunday’s El Clasico two points behind their arch-rivals at the top of La Liga. Both teams have Champions League games midweek, with Barcelona travelling to Napoli while Real Madrid host Manchester City.

Madrid have dropped four points in their last two games meaning the fate of the title is now firmly in the hands of Quique Setien’s side. If Messi and co are victorious in the Bernabeu next weekend then it could be curtains for Los Blancos’ title hopes. 

While the season might not exactly have gone to plan for Barcelona, the Catalans are still on course to end the season on a high despite their surprise Copa del Rey ouster by Athletic Bilbao.

3 Things We Learned as Barcelona Thrashed Eibar 5-0 at Camp Nou