Barcelona will finish the third round of La Liga matches at the top of the table thanks to a sensational performance and a 5-0 victory in the Catalan Derby against Espanyol. Lionel Messi got a hat-trick and Ousmane Dembélé had a successful debut for the club, and Barça look very strong ahead of the Champions League opener against Juventus.
Here are a few takeaways from what we saw on Saturday:
1 - Nélson Semedo is a monster
With every Semedo performance, that crazy tweet from a Catalan journalist claiming Barça players thought Semedo was worse than Douglas looks more and more hilarious. The Portuguese had another monster game against Espanyol, absolutely owning the right side of the pitch with and without the ball. His pace is frightening, his energy is unstoppable and his defending is impressive. Nelsinho has been at the club for less than two months and looks like he's a Barça player for five years, and the most amazing thing is: he'll only get better.
The team looks balanced and strong with Semedo at right-back, and unless Valverde decides to start Aleix Vidal against Juventus for some inexplicable reason, Nelsinho will be ready to impress in his Champions League debut as well. What a freaking player.
2 - Ivan Rakitic is still good
Because Semedo is such a good right back, Rakitic has been allowed to play in midfield again, and against Espanyol he reminded us of his immense quality. Ivan was everywhere and influenced play in multiple areas of the pitch. His passing was on point regardless of the distance, and his assist to Messi's first goal (yes, he was offside) was absolutely fantastic. He played in Busquets' position in the last 15 minutes and was still impressive, showing he's not in decline or just not good anymore. Rakitic is a world-class midfielder, but he needs to play in midfield. It's that simple.
3 - Ousmane Dembélé will do great things
I will not overreact to Dembélé's debut, and one assist (as great as it was) won't be enough to make me believe he'll be the greatest player in the club's history, but the young Frenchman only confirmed my expectations of what he can do. Dembélé showed everything: pace, skill, passing, intelligence, all of it. He didn't look anxious or unsettled, and his composure was very good for his first match at home.
Dembélé will probably start on the bench against Juventus as Valverde is looking to ease him into the system, but there's no doubt he can have an impact on Tuesday's game and beyond. Dembélé will be a Blaugrana great, no question.