Barcelona successfully defend La Liga as Luis Suarez’s hat-trick defeated Granada 3-0 on Saturday and all-but-earned the No 9 the Pichichi Trophy.
Luis Enrique went with his most tried-and-tested XI at Los Carmenes as Barca were changed from last weekend’s 5-0 demolition of arch-rivals Espanyol, while Granada made two alterations to the side that thrashed Sevilla 4-1 away from home, one of those sacrificed being former Blaugrana winger Isaac Cuenca.
Much of the build-up to the game in Andalucia was dominated by talk of ‘briefcases’, referring to a potential conspiracy between Granada and Madrid, but the hosts looked keen to the set the record straight and distance themselves from such speculation, despite only testing Marc-Andre ter Stegen from two set-pieces.
In fact, Andres Fernandez was the busiest man on the pitch as he somehow clawed Gerard Pique’s early header off the line, before claiming another effort from the defender’s forehead and several other balls into his box.
Nonetheless, Barca did catch out Granada when Neymar’s link-up with Jordi Alba resulted in the left-back breaking the offside trap down the left and sending the ball across the face of Fernandez’s goal for Suarez to tap into an empty net.
The No 9, clearly aware Cristiano Ronaldo was trying to close the gap on him in the Pichichi stakes with a pair of first-half strikes against Deportivo La Coruna, then seemingly ended both races with another point-blank finish, this time from the right as Dani Alves did superbly well to keep the ball in at the right-hand byline and hook a cross into the box.
Fernandez then continued his heroic performance into the second half as he was at full stretch when tipping over a shot from outside the box, but Ter Stegen arguably outdid his fellow custodian in a single save via Granada’s best chance of the game, Fran Rico found unmarked central to the German’s goal, but his shot crucially was pushed away.
Straight at the other end, Neymar was picked up in the Granada area with a pinpoint square pass along the ground, but Fernandez somehow tipped the ball away with an instinctive stop.
Neymar wasn’t to make the same mistake again, however, as wonderfully-unselfish play saw the No 11 pass up the opportunity to shoot at Fernandez, instead laying off Suarez for 3-0, the Pichichi and a 24th League title.
Granada 0-3 Barcelona
Suarez 22, 38, 86
Granada: A Fernandez; Lopes, Babin, Costa (Doria 81), Lomban; Rochina (Cuenca 46), Doucoure, Perez, Rico; El Arabi (Barral 77), Penaranda
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Mathieu 75), Alba; Busquets (Sergi 88), Rakitic (Arda 79), Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Referee: Hernandez Hernandez