Evening all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from Camp Nou as Barcelona welcome Eibar
. The home side will be confident of stretching their 100% start to the new league season to five matches - moving seven points clear of champions Real Madrid in the process. Can Eibar upset Ernesto Valverde's side in this famous stadium? Stay tuned to find out!
To suggest that Eibar are the underdogs tonight would be putting it mildly. Barcelona won both league games last season with an aggregate score of 10-2, and have actually scored four times in each of their last three league meetings with Eibar. There has also been a red card in each of the last two league meetings between the pair at Camp Nou, suggesting there will be some drama tonight!
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the team news from Camp Nou. Has Valverde rung the changes from the 2-1 win over Getafe at the weekend? What about Eibar – any alterations from their 1-0 victory over Leganes on Friday night? Let's have a look at the two XIs...
BARCA: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Mascherano, Digne; Paulinho, Busquets, Iniesta; Denis, Messi, Deulofeu
EIBAR: Dmitrovic; Arbilla, Galvez, Paulo, Capa; Inui, Garcia, Escalante, Jordan, Junca; Enrich
As expected, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has rung the changes tonight. Nelson Semedo, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Digne, Paulinho, Denis Suarez
and Gerard Deulofeu all come into the XI, with Luis Suarez among those dropping to the bench. Denis will play alongside Lionel Messi
and Deulofeu in the front three tonight, while Digne has replaced Jordi Alba at left full-back.
Eibar boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, meanwhile, has made three changes to the team that started against Leganes last time out, with Anaitz Arbilla, Gonzalo Escalante and David Junca coming into the XI. Sergi Enrich will again lead the line for the visitors, with Takashi Inui supporting from a wide position.
So there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff on this warm evening in Barcelona. I shall speak about Eibar a little bit later, but let's start with the home side. As mentioned, Barcelona have a 100% record in La Liga this season - winning all four of their matches to sit atop the table on 12 points, two points clear of second-place Sevilla.
Champions Real Madrid are actually currently down in fourth position in the table after dropping points in two of their four league matches this season. Victory for Barcelona tonight would see the Catalan giants move seven points clear of Los Blancos, although Zinedine Zidane's side would have the chance to cut the gap back to four when they host Real Betis on Wednesday night.
Barcelona opened their 2017-18 La Liga campaign with back-to-back 2-0 wins over Real Betis and Alaves, before recording a 5-0 victory over Catalan rivals Espanyol at Camp Nou on September 9. Valverde's side then recorded a 3-0 success over Italian champions Juventus in their Champions League group opener last week. Four straight wins, 12 goals scored and zero conceded.
Barcelona would have entered Saturday's clash at Getafe full of confidence, but it turned into a very difficult game for Valverde's team. Indeed, a stunning hit from Gaku Shibasaki saw Getafe lead into the final 30 minutes, but Denis Suarez and Paulinho came off the bench to turn it around for the visitors.
When considering that Barcelona's next two league matches after this one are against Girona and Las Palmas, the Catalan outfit could realistically win their first seven league games of the campaign without breaking a sweat. Arguably, the team's first real test in La Liga does not arrive until October 14, when they travel to Atletico Madrid. The atmosphere is building at Camp Nou now!
Eleven goals scored and just the one conceded represents a strong start to the new league season, but Barcelona will be without summer signing Ousmane Dembele for the next three or four months after the Frenchman picked up a serious thigh injury on his first La Liga start at the weekend.
As for Eibar, Jose Luis Mendilibar's side opened their new league season with a 1-0 victory at Malaga on August 21, before losing 1-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao one week later. Then came a 3-0 defeat at an impressive Sevilla after the international break, before beating Leganes 1-0 last time out.
A total of six points from four matches has left Eibar in 13th position in the table, although they have only scored twice in the league this term. It is extremely difficult to imagine Mendilibar's side preventing Barcelona from winning tonight, but how the club performs this season is not going to depend on their results at places such as Camp Nou, which is filling up nicely ahead of kickoff here.
Eibar are currently playing in their fourth straight La Liga season having earned promotion to the top flight during the 2013-14 campaign. They finished 18th in 2014-15, but stayed in La Liga due to Elche's financial problems. The 2015-16 season brought a 14th-place finish, before earning a very impressive 10th-place finish last term. It will be tough to better that position this season.
Florian Lejeune to Newcastle United was Eibar's major outgoing during the summer transfer window, but money was made available to reinvest, with the likes of Paulo Oliveira, Marko Dmitrovic, Joan Jordan, Yoel Rodriguez, Ivan Alejo, Charles and David Lomban coming through the door. Right, we are just about ready for kickoff at Camp Nou. Stay tuned for live updates!
KICKOFF! Barcelona kick things off on home soil...
... not a full house inside the stadium tonight, but there is a good atmosphere, and the Barcelona supporters will be expecting a fairly comfortable evening. It could be a long 90 minutes for Eibar here.
Barcelona's 'Courage Dembele' shirts...
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Eibar to take the lead as Enrich breaks into a one-on-one situation with Ter Stegen, but the striker is denied by the German goalkeeper! One long ball had opened up Barcelona's back four as Camp Nou fell silent. Good work from Ter Stegen.
Plenty of possession for Barcelona, but not too much else at the moment as Eibar push high up the field. Just a reminder that Luis Suarez has dropped to the bench tonight, with Denis Suarez supporting Messi and Deulofeu in the final third of the field. Still 0-0 with six minutes on the clock.
Pass, pass, pass from Barcelona as the Catalan side look to work some space in the final third, but Eibar continue to hold their defensive shape. It has been a quiet start from the home side here.
Mascherano has to come across to clear ahead of Capa as Eibar continue to impress in the opening 10 minutes of this match. Indeed, Ter Stegen has just had to make another save - keeping out a low effort from Inui after the number 10 had found some space at the far post.
BOOKING! Capa (Eibar) is booked for a late tackle on Digne.
Very, very flat from Barcelona thus far. That is the best way to describe it. The hosts are having decent possession in the middle third, but nothing is happening in the final third at the moment.
Deulofeu breaks down the right for Barcelona, but Galvez is across to make a smart challenge, and eventually Eibar manage to escape what would have developed into a dangerous moment.
Smart work from Capa as the Eibar number seven combines with Jordan before delivering into the Barcelona box, but Mascherano is on hand to make the clearance. Eibar are working extremely hard as they continue to frustrate Barcelona, who are being urged forward by the home crowd here.
Eibar forward Enrich is causing Pique some problems tonight.
Barcelona are awarded a penalty as Galvez is adjudged to have brought Semedo to the ground inside the box. It was an untidy challenge, but for me, that is a very, very harsh call!
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Eibar (Messi, pen)
Messi dinks the ball into the corner to send Barcelona ahead here.
Eibar need to be extremely careful that they do not concede a quick-fire second here. Deulofeu threatens to break into a one-on-one with the away side's goalkeeper, but the flag is raised.
SAVE! Dmitrovic flies across his goal to keep out a curling Messi strike!
Inui picks up possession inside the Barcelona half before shifting it wide, and eventually the number eight has a strike blocked by Mascherano after working some space in the final third. There is no question that the visitors will have opportunities here if they continue at this intensity.
Half-chance for Eibar as Enrich meets a cross from Capa, but the striker's effort was always wide of the post. Barcelona have been sloppy in their own half tonight, there is no doubt about that.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining, and Messi's penalty is currently the difference between the two teams. Having looked at a couple of replays, I am still not convinced that Galvez did enough to bring Semedo to the deck. Eibar have a right to feel harshly treated here.
It has been a good couple of minutes for Eibar, who have kept hold of the ball inside Barcelona's half of the field. Barcelona are really struggling to get to grips with the midfield battle here.
Messi's spot kick is the difference approaching the final stages of the first period...
SAVE! Dmitrovic is down to keep out a powerful strike from Messi.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Eibar (Paulinho)
Barcelona have their second of the match as Paulinho rises highest inside the Eibar box to power a header into the back of the net. That is two goals in the space of three days for the Brazilian!
Eibar have played pretty well in this first period, but they trail 2-0 at Camp Nou, which will be difficult to take. Barcelona have had not to be too brilliant to open up a comfortable lead here.
Eibar are keeping possession in the latter stages of the first period, which is not a bad tactic. A third for Barcelona would, without question, end this match as a contest. As long as it stays 2-0, Eibar at least have a hint of a chance. Although it is very difficult to see a turnaround tonight.
Eibar have a free kick in a dangerous area as Mascherano brings Escalante to the deck...
Arbilla's free kick is deflected over the Barcelona crossbar, and the referee blows his whistle.
HALF-TIME: Barcelona 2-0 Eibar
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Barcelona leading Eibar 2-0 courtesy of goals from Messi and Paulinho. Messi sent the hosts ahead from the penalty spot in the 21st minute, before Paulinho headed a Denis Suarez corner into the back of the net in the 38th minute.
STATISTICS! Barcelona have only just shaded the possession (58%), while the hosts only had four attempts in the first period, but found the back of the net on two occasions. Eibar, on the other hand, actually had six attempts in the opening 45 minutes - two of which were on target.
BENCH WATCH! Bebe and Charles are among Eibar's attacking substitutes tonight, and it will be interesting to see whether either or indeed both are introduced in the second period. Barcelona, meanwhile, have the likes of Alba, Rakitic, Roberto, Luis Suarez and Vidal in reserve at Camp Nou.
Eibar resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second period gathers pace here.
Not an awful lot to report in the early stages of the second half, although Barcelona have been in control of the possession. Deulofeu had the chance to isolate Galvez in a very dangerous position a couple of moments ago, but the Eibar centre-back did well to drop deep and make the challenge.
Good grief - Eibar's goalkeeper has just raced out of his goal to confront Deulofeu, who looked quite frightened that the Serbian had decided to break from goal! In the end, good work.
Just a reminder that a win for Barcelona tonight would move them onto 15 points in La Liga - seven points clear of the champions Real Madrid, albeit having played an extra game. Still a decent gap!
GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Eibar (Denis Suarez)
Barcelona make it 3-0 on the night as Denis Suarez smashes the ball past Dmitrovic after the Serbian had palmed a Messi strike straight into the path of the Spain international!
Half-chance for Barcelona as Deulofeu's low cross deflects into the path of Messi, but Galvez manages to clear at the vital moment. It is a very difficult period of the match for the visitors.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Eibar (Enrich)
Eibar have one back at Camp Nou as Enrich turns a Junca cross into the bottom corner after Barcelona's defence went to sleep! Super finish from Eibar's number nine!
GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Eibar (Messi)
It is raining goals! Barcelona have their fourth and Messi has his second as the Argentine passes the ball into the bottom corner of the net! It is, once again, an inch-perfect finish from Messi.
SAVE! Ter Stegen has to keep out a strike from Inui!
GOAL! Barcelona 5-1 Eibar (Messi, hat-trick)
It is another hat-trick for Messi as the Argentine drives into the Eibar box before squeezing the ball under the onrushing goalkeeper. Eibar's three defenders could not halt Messi there!
BARCELONA SUB! Roberto replaces Iniesta for the home side.
EIBAR SUB! Pena replaces Capa for the away side.
BARCELONA SUB! Busquets is replaced by Rakitic for Barcelona.
Little over 20 minutes of football remaining at Camp Nou, and it would not be a surprise to see a couple more goals in the latter stages. Barcelona are absolutely flying at the moment.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be too pleased watching this as Messi pulls further clear at the top of the scoring charts. Ronaldo's league suspension will end tomorrow against Real Betis.
SAVE! Digne cannot find a route past Dmitrovic after breaking into the box!
EIBAR SUB! Charles replaces Enrich for the away side.
Little over 15 minutes of football remaining at Camp Nou, and Eibar have at least managed to enjoy some possession in Barcelona's half of the field. Going forward, Eibar have been decent tonight.
BARCELONA SUB! Vidal replaces Deulofeu for the home side.
Galvez has just jumped into a challenge with Paulinho inside the Barcelona box, and the number three was taking another big risk there! Eibar just want this game over, but there is still a good chunk of time left to play at Camp Nou. Messi has once again been sensational tonight.
EIBAR SUB! Garcia is replaced by Rivera.
BOOKING! Galvez (Eibar) is booked for a foul on Roberto.
Messi fires a free kick into the stands.
Not too much to report in the last few minutes as Eibar enjoy a decent period of possession. I still fancy Barcelona to add a sixth goal in the latter stages of this match.
We are approaching midnight local time in Barcelona, and the stands are starting to empty as supporters make their way towards the exits. Eibar were impressive in the first half of tonight's match, but Barcelona simply went up a gear in the second. Still five minutes of normal time to play here.
POST! Pena has just hit the inside of the post after breaking into the Barcelona box!
GOAL! Barcelona 6-1 Eibar (Messi)
Messi has his fourth as the Argentine finds the far corner with a super finish after Vidal had delivered into the attacker. That is, once again, just too good from this genius of a footballer!
CROSSBAR! Eibar's Charles hits the crossbar with a super header!
We are into the second of two additional minutes at the end of the 90.
FULL-TIME: Barcelona 6-1 Eibar
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Barcelona thumping Eibar 6-1 to move five points clear at the top of La Liga. What a performance from Messi once again! Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage from Spain. See you soon!