Freedom for Alcacer! Spain striker deserves more minutes as Suarez slump continues

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The former Valencia forward scored both goals to give Ernesto Valverde's side victory over Sevilla at Camp Nou in Lionel Messi's 600th official match

There were loud calls for "freedom" at Camp Nou on Saturday night.

Freedom for the political prisoners jailed amid Catalunya's declaration of independence from Spain and the ongoing crisis in the region.

And on the pitch, Paco Alcacer showed that he too deserves to be freed from his reduced role on the Barcelona bench.

Before the match, banners were unveiled either side of a huge national flag (the Senyera) with a message in Catalan and English: "Justice". And as the game got underway, fans behind one of the goals unfurled placards of their own. "Free all political prisoners," one read. And the other one simply said: "Europe, shame on you."

Just over 70,000 fans braved the pouring rain to make that statement and there were strong chants of "freedom" at various stages throughout the encounter. Predictably - and sadly, but also understandably - political protests are never too far away at Camp Nou these days.

However, those same supporters had also come along to see the league leaders in action and to watch Lionel Messi, making his 600th competitive appearance for the club where he has spent his entire career.

Barca Sevilla score

Ahead of this match, Messi had scored more against Sevilla than any other team and he beat defenders at will in another stunning show which brought several ovations from the Camp Nou crowd.

He didn't score, but it didn't matter - this was another Messi masterclass of passing, dribbling and tremendous technique. These fans are lucky to have had him all these years.

Overheard in the bathroom at half-time, one fan said: "The little guy has done some stuff, man..." And his friend replied: "The little guy does whatever he likes."

In this match, Messi played deeper behind Luis Suarez and there was a surprise start for Alcacer. It turned out to be an inspired decision by Ernesto Valverde. The 24-year-old scored both goals in a win that was much more difficult in the end than it should have been.

Sergio Escudero made a mess of a long pass from Suarez and Alcacer kept his cool to fire home after 23 minutes and Barca could have been three or four up by half-time in what was one of their best performances this season.

PACO ALCACER BARCELONA SEVILLA LALIGA

BARCELONA SEVILLA LALIGA

Sevilla, however, are struggling to click into gear under Eduardo Berizzo and looked worryingly passive and even disinterested on occasions. This team had lost their last two away games in La Liga and Champions League by 4-0 (at Valencia) and 5-1 (at Spartak Moscow) scorelines. It was not hard to see why.

But Barca began to fade in the second half and Sevilla equalised through Guido Pizarro. Suddenly, their first-half performance counted for little, but the excellent Alcacer made sure their hard work was not lost as he pounced on a cross from the right side to make it 2-1 soon afterwards.

Meanwhile, Suarez slumped again and the Uruguay striker has now failed to score in 451 minutes for Barca since his late leveller at the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid last month.

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That is the longest he has gone without netting since signing for the Catalan club in the summer of 2014.

Although he was a willing worker here, his confidence is clearly low and he rarely looked like scoring either. Alcacer, meanwhile, now has nine goals in his last nine starts for Barca and is looking better and better all the time.

So perhaps it's time to free Paco.

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