Barcelona began their bid for a fourth consecutive La Liga title with a spellbinding 5-0 win against Villarreal at the Nou Camp.
Emerging star Thiago started the scoring in the 25th minute before Cesc Fabregas made it 2-0 on his league debut. Fellow newcomer Alexis Sanchez also marked his debut with a goal before Lionel Messi grabbed two for himself.
Fabregas lined up in midfield, with Chilean Sanchez wide on the right. Villarreal, fourth-place finishers last season, fielded first-choice duo Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar up front. Barcelona’s first chance fell to Sanchez in the sixth minute but his shot was held well by Diego Lopez.
In the 17th minute the hosts forged another opportunity when Pedro slipped in Messi on the left and Lopez had to be alert to make the near-post save, before Sergio Busquets’ header from the resulting corner bounced off the top of the bar.
The Catalan side’s season was up and running when Thiago claimed the first goal of the season. The midfielder was allowed to carry the ball forward unopposed before simply firing the ball past Lopez with his left foot.
Rossi immediately burst into life and was not far off with a powerful shot at the other end. The 38th minute saw Rossi go close again, smashing a shot which Valdes saved only for the ball to bounce up on the line before the goalkeeper swiped it away. However, a raised flag confirmed the USA-born Italian international striker had been ruled offside anyway.
The second goal came on the stroke of half-time and it was former youth team colleagues Messi and Fabregas at the heart of it. Argentinian Messi dropped deep to play an inch-perfect ball through to meet Fabregas’ run and the homecoming Catalan nudged it around Lopez before tapping in.
Early in the second half Sanchez joined Fabregas as a goalscorer on his debut and this time Thiago was the provider, playing a delightful ball through the defence for Sanchez to race on to and place past Lopez with the measured finish. Fabregas had another chance of his own seconds later as Barcelona continued to pile forward. It was 4-0 in the 51st minute with a similarly incisive passing move, Iniesta playing a give-and-go before slotting through for Messi to round Lopez and score.
Fabregas was given an ovation when he was replaced by Jonathan Dos Santos in the 70th minute before Messi got his second of the night when he crashed home after a lovely one-two with Thiago.