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Playtime is over! Fati and Suarez show Barcelona mean business

10:13 PM WAT 14/09/2019
Ansu Fati Barcelona 2019-20
The Catalans put a slow start to the season behind them to remind La Liga of their championship quality with a thrashing of Valencia

Playtime is over. Barcelona proved that as they routed Valencia on Saturday in La Liga, even if it was a 16-year-old kid running the show. 

Ansu Fati, on his first start for the Spanish champions, scored the first goal and set up the second for Frenkie de Jong in a 5-2 victory at Camp Nou

After the international break there are often cobwebs to be blown away, but with a string of big matches impending - this the first of seven games in under a month, with the Champions League back - there was no time to fool around.

Luis Suarez returned from injury, on as a substitute, to net a second half brace which helped Barcelona rack up a scoreline announcing they mean business. 

The first three matches (lost, won, drawn) had their ups and downs, giving August a ‘settling in’ feel - but now the Catalans are hitting their stride. 

The propelling force was Ansu Fati, this remarkable 16-year-old showing killer instinct to float into the right position and drill home the opener inside two minutes. The Guinean forward then created the second with a fine dribble and measured cut-back for De Jong to smash home. 

The pass oozed maturity and patience, because from the byline it would have been tempting to smash the ball wildly across the face of goal, hoping for a runner to make contact. Instead it was pinpoint, a gift for the Dutchman to net his first goal for the club. 

Ansu is the youngest player ever to record a goal and assist in the same La Liga match. And while some of the 80,000 plus at Camp Nou came hoping for Lionel Messi, still out injured, they left chattering about a teen sensation who is looking increasingly comfortable on this stage. 

Maybe in a few years they can proudly say they were here at the start. 

Ansu's good news story and the rout as a whole don’t entirely disguise Barcelona’s defensive problems though. 

The backline looks not-quite-calibrated, with seven goals conceded in four matches the club’s worst start to a season in that regard since the 2000-01 campaign. 

The absences of the star forwards - Messi, Suarez and Ousmane Dembele - aren’t really an excuse for the defending, although it is true that when the Argentine is on the pitch, the opposition can’t afford to throw players forward with the same liberty. 

Kevin Gameiro easily beat the offside trap and finished coolly past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to make it 2-1, with the goal confirmed after VAR review. 

In previous years defensive stability has come together as the season progresses, with Gerard Pique for one a player that hits his peak about halfway through the campaign and then maintains it. 

The defender was sharp in attack though, netting the third as Jasper Cillessen let Antoine Griezmann’s shot squirm away from him, hit the post and fall for Pique to tap in. 

Dutch goalkeeper Cillessen made few mistakes while at the club and Barcelona fans hold him in high regard - but he didn’t mean to give the fans another gift. 

Valencia, in chaos after coach Marcelino was cruelly sacked because of off-the-field disagreements with owner Peter Lim, folded after the break. 

When Fati was brought off for Suarez, making his comeback, it took the Uruguayan under a minute to score. 

The forward expertly faked out Cillesen and then stroked the ball home from the edge of the box, drilling another home at the near post to seal the win. “I’ll take it from here,” the striker’s performance said. 

The message from Barcelona, ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Borussia Dortmund, was similarly authoritative.