The blaugranes had been playing remarkably well in 2020/21 considering how last season ended and with all of the off-field issues to contend with.
Real Madrid had, until a week ago, also got off to a good start, but then two abject losses against Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk meant that they were there for the taking.
Even when Fede Valverde had given Los Blancos an early lead with the simplest of build-ups and finishes, there appeared no need to worry.
Three minutes was all it took for Barca to get back on terms, Ansu Fati’s goal the 400th that Barca had scored against their eternal rivals.
It was one of the bright spots on a bleak day at the Camp Nou, Sergino Dest providing another in what has to be one of the best Clasico debuts in history.
We may well have found our Dani Alves replacement ladies and gents.
In fairness, they were crumbs of comfort in what was an awful defeat against a side that didn’t really offer too much but never really looked like being beaten by Barca.
Ronald Koeman has to shoulder the blame for that.
His tactics, certainly in the opening 45, weren’t the issue, but he could’ve looked to switch things around when it was clear that Messi was getting no joy for the sixth Clasico running.
What’s unforgivable in the scenario we saw on Saturday was that the Dutchman refused to do anything about changing things until 80 minutes were on the clock.
He needed some fresh legs and ideas long before then. If not on the hour mark, then certainly no later than the 70th minute.
Anyone could see that Philippe Coutinho wasn’t having his greatest game. His passes were awry, his application questionable.
As for Sergio Busquets... some while ago on this forum I stated that his time had passed. I’m sticking by that after today’s ‘performance.’
Slow, ageing, laboured. Call it whatever you like, but a player in his shoes in these games needs to command the midfield and he was nowhere close to doing so.
That’s not to say that Miralem Pjanic would’ve done any better but Busquets didn’t deserve to be on the pitch after the first hour.
A shame though it is, the time is right now for him to no longer be considered a first choice.
Coutinho still needs to work his way into the side again, and needs time to do so, whereas Koeman’s decision making in the big games will be scrutinised like never before after that.