No Messi? No problem
When Barcelona announced Lionel Messi had pulled out of the squad for the Malaga game it felt like a real blow, even though Barcelona were facing La Liga’s basement side.
Messi quite rightly spent the day with his family and their newest arrival, although it looked as though he still managed to watch his team in action.
Barcelona, meanwhile coped pretty well without their star man and the club will probably be also pleased that he had a game off ahead of the trip to Chelsea.
Ousmane Dembele (more on him later), Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez were all bright and early goals (and a sending off) ensured the game was wrapped up early with no scares.
Perfect game for Dembele
This was a great game for Dembele who seemed to visibly grow in confidence throughout the 90 minutes and showed some real promise in his brightest outing for some time.
8 - Ousmane Dembélé attempted eight dribbles against Malaga (five completed), his highest tally in a single game for Barcelona (all comps). Confidence. pic.twitter.com/rXHE2EPOVt— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 10, 2018
He set up Coutinho’s goal with a lovely cut-back, which you suspect we might see a lot more of, and might have had a goal himself in the second half with a really well-struck shot with Roberto saved.
It remains to be seen if he’s played himself into contention for the Chelsea game, but after a week of ugly speculation in the press it was great to see Dembele back on the pitch and enjoying himself.
Cute Coutinho scores again
Another game and another goal for Coutinho and this one was a pretty classy flick from Dembele’s assist.
With Iniesta absent, Coutinho took up his preferred position on the left and was really bright throughout the game.
He might have had more goals too, he managed four shots on target, and looks to be really settling into his new team.
Alba escapes serious injury
Malaga were rightly reduced to 10 men after Samu’s awful foul on Jordi Alba, and for a while there it looked as though the left-back was in some serious pain.
TV close-ups showed a hole in his sock and he was hobbling around for a few minutes after the game.
9 - Jordi Alba has provided nine assists this season in all competitions, more than any other La Liga defender. Helicopter. pic.twitter.com/CnoLuZG7kZ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 10, 2018
Fortunately he appears to have escaped injury and he was also given a breather late on as Ernesto Valverde replaced him with Lucas Digne.
Alba had already proven once again how vital he is with the assist for the opener, his perfect cross allowing Suarez to head home.
No Malaga mistakes this time around
The last time Barcelona visited Malaga in La Liga the game ended in disaster as the hosts won 2-0, Neymer was sent off and Barca missed the chance to return to the top of the table.
This time around it was vastly different. Ernesto Valverde named a strong team, Barca took an early lead, never looked back and it was the hosts finishing with 10.
Malaga remain the last team to beat Barcelona in La Liga but the Blaugrana appear to have learned from those mistakes and their unbeaten run continues.