Luis Suarez scored and Lionel Messi was at the double as Barcelona bounced back in La Liga with a comfortable 3-0 win at Osasuna on Saturday.
Neymar’s absence opened the door to another opportunity in Barca’s attack for Arda Turan as six changes saw returns for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez. Aleix Vidal, however, was cut completely.
Lionel Messi played behind Suarez and Arda in a 4-3-1-2 formation for La Blaugrana, and the Argentine flicked a deft through ball over Ivan Marquez for the No 9, whose half-volleyed finish rolls just the wrong side of Nauzet Perez’s far post, in an early warning shot.
Jordi Alba then broke away down the left and drilled a low cross into the box for Suarez, who turned Marquez and - with his back to goal - drove the ball onto the post.
Samuel Umtiti was soon found at Nauzet’s back post by Andres Iniesta’s delivery from the right, but despite being unmarked from a matter of yards out, the Frenchman headed over.
Back to Suarez, the Uruguayan showed great vision to slip in Messi with a cutback, but the No 10’s close-range finish was blocked by Nauzet’s toe, with the goalkeeper heading in the opposite direction.
MS without the N seemed to be well and truly back in form as Messi went on to play in Suarez to his left. The former Liverpool ace then returned it to his fellow superstar, whose chip was desperately tipped over by Nauzet.
Having begun the game positively, Osasuna were left with no choice but to get everyone behind the ball, including their two strikers, and rely on the rare breakaway chance for a goal.
That change in approach almost yielded a surprise lead for the hosts as an unmarked Oriol Riera came a whisker away from sliding a cross home at Ter Stegen’s back post.
At the other end, Andres Iniesta unleashed a spectacular, first-time volley with the outside of his left boot that flew inches wide of Nauzet’s left-hand post, before Arda’s cutback for Messi in the Osasuna area was surprisingly poked wide by the Argentine.
Osasuna switched to six at the back for the second half, but while they were more defensive on paper, Joaquin Caparros’ side became more of a goal threat. Barca were forced to send more bodies forward, in turn narrowing their margins for error as the hosts could counterattack.
Indeed, a sensational move by Sergio Leon saw him nutmeg Umtiti, charge towards the box unchallenged and coolly lob the ball onto the bar, with Ter Stegen looking very casual.
Moments later, however, Messi picked out Alba with a defence-splitting through ball, the left-back then drilling a cross for Suarez to tap past Nauzet.
Messi promptly took on a group of Osasuna players in the hosts’ box before angling a shot towards the bottom-right corner, but Nauzet got his positioning spot on and tipped it around his near post.
Nonetheless, substitute Denis Suarez bided his time before finding Alba, who looped a cross into the penalty area for the Argentine to finish similarly past Nauzet.
Osasuna were dead and buried by that point, although Alex Berenguer did force a good save from Ter Stegen, the midfielder losing his footing in the Barca box and his shot ending up almost catching out the German, who had to get a hand on the ball to tip it over.
Rafinha, meanwhile, was lucky to avoid a booking or possibly a red card when he crashed into Carlos Clerc with his studs up, even if the Osasuna man did manage to shake off the pain.
Still, Barca were back to their best, attempting almost 700 more passes than the Pamplonans and helping themselves to 75 percent of the ball.
And there was still time for a third Blaugrana goal as Messi made it look so easy, waltzing his way past several Osasuna players before finishing into an empty net to provisionally become the Pichichi with 11 goals.
Osasuna 0-3 Barcelona
Suarez 59, Messi 72, 90
Osasuna: Nauzet; Oier (Bonnin 63), Miguel Flano (David 46), Marquez, Clerc; De las Cuevas, Torres, Causic, Berenguer; Leon (Kenan 70), Riera
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Gomes (Rafinha 76), Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Arda (Denis 65)
Referee: Martinez Munuera