Luis Suarez made light of the absent Lionel Messi and Neymar with a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Guangzhou Evergrande in the Club World Cup semi-final.
Barca now go on to play River Plate, who eliminated Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Wednesday’s semi, the champions of Europe and South America meeting on Sunday in Yokohama.
Suarez scored the opener after Ivan Rakitic’s shot wasn’t fully dealt with by Guangzhou goalkeeper Li Shuai, the Uruguayan carrying the burden without his MSN colleagues.
He got the second just after half time following a spectacular exchange with Iniesta, and claimed his and Barca’s third from the penalty spot, even if the award was questionable, Messi and Neymar not missed on this occasion.
Messi was ruled out of the match shortly before kick off after it was confirmed he was suffering from renal colic, a condition often related to kidney stones, but Neymar was listed among the alternates after a groin injury.
Guangzhou, even though Barca were without two of their vaunted front three sat deep and just got deeper as the first half went on, at one point having eight outfield players in the penalty area.
The best early chance was arguably for Munir El-Haddadi, who was played in by a beautiful Andres Iniesta ball, the captain cutting the Chinese defence in half, but Li Shuai was out quickly.
There was also a reminder of threat at the other end when Guangzhou looked to break and Barca were caught short-handed in defence, but an expert sliding challenge from Javier Mascherano put a stop to that.
Munir had a second chance, again supplied by Iniesta, but couldn’t divert the header on target, and a cross from the Guangzhou left had Barca worried as it flashed across goal but went begging.
Guangzhou were disrupted by a potentially nasty injury to Zou Zheng, who fell awkwardly on his left leg after a nudge by Dani Alves.
Barca finally found a way through as the first half came to a close when Suarez reacted quickest to Li’s parry of Rakitic’s shot but the lead was nearly cancelled out moments later when Elkeson’s header needed Claudio Bravo’s intervention and it was the signal for the first sustained period of Guangzhou pressure.
But Barca rode out the storm until half time and then after the break the lead was doubled, Suarez again, with a wonderful display of movement, balance and ball control.
Suarez laid off to Iniesta then burst into the penalty area and was found by the skipper, on the turn, taking the ball on his chest and beating the on-rushing Li Shuai.
The second goal forced Guangzhou to come out more and that played into Barca’s hands, the game getting more open but eventually wrapped up with a spot kick.
Suarez’s penalty, after Munir was fouled by Huang Bowen, was emphatic and delivered his third hat-trick in Barca colours.
Sandro Ramirez went close to a fourth, 4-0 the record score line in this version of the competition, set by Barca on two occasions in 2011, and Sergio Busquets also had a go too with Gerard Pique breaking forward regularly as well.
Barca though stopped on three, having not really been troubled by their Chinese opponents, thanks largely to the magic of Iniesta and Suarez.
Barcelona 3-0 Guangzhou Evergrande
Suarez 39, 50, 67
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba (Adriano 76); Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta (Samper 81); Sergi Roberto (Sandro 72), Munir, Suarez
Guangzhou Evergrande: Li Shuai; Zhang Linpeng, Feng Xiaoting, Zou Zheng (Li Xuepeng 35), Kim Young-gwon; Paulinho, Zheng Zhi; Huang Bowen, Goulart, Zheng Long (Yu Hanchao 56); Elkeson (Gao Lin 67)
Referee: Aguilar [El Salvador]