Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona came back from a goal behind to defeat Eibar 3-1 in an intense encounter at Camp Nou on Sunday.
La Blaugrana rewarded Ivan Rakitic for his brace against BATE Borisov in the Champions League midweek with a starting berth alongside Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano in midfield, while Sandro Ramirez was preferred to Munir El Haddadi in Lionel Messi’s absence.
Elsewhere, Claudio Bravo returned in place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks, while Marc Bartra kept his place in central defence, with Thomas Vermaelen again named as a subsitute, but Andres Iniesta had to wait a little longer to announce his return.
Sunday also marked a year to the day that Luis Suarez made his official Barca debut in the 3-1 Clasico defeat to Real Madrid.
Eibar showed no fear in the opening stages, pressing high up the pitch as opposed to sitting back on the counterattack, and deservedly broke the deadlock when Borja Baston scored his sixth goal in just five games, smashing a loose ball down the middle of Bravo’s net.
The Atletico Madrid loanee’s finish meant Barca had conceded in four straight home League games for the first time under Luis Enrique, but they nonetheless equalised via Suarez, who powered home Sandro Ramirez’s flick after the starlet was impeccably found by Sergio Busquets.
The action showed no signs of abating in the second half as Eibar maintained their high-octane style, although it did not curry favour with the home side, who made known their frustrations with the referee for letting so many of their challenges go unpunished.
Yet the Catalans, not for the first time this season, successfully fought back control of the match and took the lead thanks to some wonderful grafting from Neymar, who forced his way into the Eibar box and squared the ball for Suarez to put away for his second of the evening.
Barca were then dealt a momentary blow as Mascherano was surprisingly given a straight red card for appearing to dissent under his breath in the referee’s direction late on, but the No 9 made sure of the points soon after with a trademark two-touch finish, bringing down a long ball and slamming it into the bottom-left corner of Asier Riesgo’s net.
HT: Barcelona 3-1 Eibar
Suarez 21 48, 85 (B) Borja 10 (E)
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Bartra, (Mathieu 56) Alba; Mascherano, Busquets, Rakitic; Sandro (Munir 56), Suarez, Neymar
Eibar: Riesgo; Capa, Dos Santos, Pantic, Junca; Escalante, Dani (Eddy 46); Keko, Verdi (Enrich 54), Inui (Saul 79); Borja
Referee: Del Cerro Grande
Mascherano sent off 83 (B)