Barcelona returned to winning ways in La Liga earlier today with an impressive 3-0 victory against Elche at the Camp Nou. The Catalan giants overcame a series of creative problems in the first half and now find themselves within five points of the La Liga summit. Lionel Messi was the catalyst for Barcelona yet again in this match and scored a brace to take his La Liga tally to 18 goals for the season. Barcelona now faces a litmus test against Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla outfit this weekend.

Barcelona did have a few problems with Elche’s counter-attacking set-up in the opening stages of the match but went on to dominate the ball as the first-half progressed. Elche were a disciplined unit, however, and deprived the Catalans of their fluidity and movement. Barcelona’s only chance of the first half fell to Francisco Trincao as the Portuguese winger dribbled his way into the penalty area but was denied by an excellent save. The Blaugrana were distinctly toothless before half-time and struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Ronald Koeman switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half and the change in tactics yielded immediate results as Lionel Messi made the most of Martin Braithwaite’s impressive flick to score Barcelona’s opening goal. The introduction of Sergio Busquets liberated Frenkie de Jong and the Dutchman drove into the penalty area to set Lionel Messi up for his second goal of the night. Barcelona continued to maintain its stranglehold on the ball as Elche struggled to cope with the Catalans’ superior skills. Jordi Alba added a cherry on the cake with an exceptional third goal and rounded off a happy night at the Camp Nou for Barcelona.

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