Lionel Messi was back to his best for Barcelona with a goal and an assist in a decisive 3-0 victory over Valladolid on Tuesday night at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla in Valladolid.
A revamped formation from manager Ronald Koeman paid handsome dividends, with Messi pulling the strings on what was a comprehensive performance from the Catalans, and Clement Lenglet and Martin Braithwaite joining Messi on the scoresheet.
There were three notable omissions from the starting XI of Koeman, as Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets all found themselves on the bench with the Ditch boss deploying a three centre-back formation, with Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba on the wings, Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanicas holding midfielders and Pedri and Braithwaite accompanying Messi in attack.
Barcelona came flying out of the gates, with Messi leading the charge and if not for a soaring save from Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip, Messi would have had the opener. The Argentine instead opted to serve as the playmaker for the opening goal, collecting a pass on the corner of the area and curling in an inch-perfect pass that Lenglet headed in for a 1-0 lead.
A dizzying array of passes from Koeman's men was evoking memories of vintage Barcelona and soon enough they doubled the margin to 2-0 when Messi found Dest on the right and the United States international's cross found the stabbing foot of Braithwaite for the goal.
Barcelona's fine play carried into the second half and Braithwaite had his second goal of the night served up to him on a silver platter by Jordi Alba, but sliced his effort wide.
The only thing lacking was a goal from Messi and he duly delivered midway through the half thanks to an exquisite flick from Pedri for Messi to run onto and fire into net to make it 3-0.
Koeman went to his bench, bringing on Samuel Umtiti, Junior Firpo and Busquets for Ronald Araujo, Alba and De Jong, respectively, with the three-goal cushion, however goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made two straight excellent saves to make sure the lead stayed three, as Valladolid had cracks at goal through Orellana and Kike Perez.
Koeman made just one final change, subbing on Philippe Coutinho for Pedri, as Barcelona calmly controlled the final minutes to put a stamp on one of their finest wins of the season.
0.- Valladolid: Masip; Hervias, Joaquin, Javi Sanchez (Sergi Guardiola, min. 78), Nacho, Michel (Roque Mesa, min. 57), Alcaraz, Jota (Orellana, min. 57), Oscar Plano (Kike Perez, min. 57), Marcos Andre (Toni Villa, min. 46), Weissman.
3.- Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Dest, Araujo, Lenglet, Mingueza, Alba (Junior Firpo, min. 71), Pjanic, De Jong (Busquets, min. 71), Pedri (Coutinho, min. 81), Braithwaite, Messi.
Goals: 0-1, min. 21: Lenglet; 0-2, min. 35: Braithwaite; 0-3, min. 66: Messi
Referee: Melero Lopez (Andalusia). Cards: Alba (Min. 62) for Barcelona, De Jong (Min. 68) for Barcelona, Joaquin (Min. 76) for Valladolid
Red cards: None
Stadium: Jose Zorrilla