Lionel Messi Hat-Trick Helps Barcelona Thrash PSV Eindhoven in Champions League

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Lionel Messi Hat-Trick Helps Barcelona Thrash PSV Eindhoven in Champions League
BARCELONA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 18: Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team`s first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between FC Barcelona and PSV at Camp Nou on September 18, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

TF-Images/Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona got off to a winning start in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League by beating PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in Group B at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.  

Ousmane Dembele also got on the scoresheet as Barca underlined the attacking quality sure to make La Liga’s champions among the favourites for this season’s trophy.

Not even a late red card for centre-back Samuel Umtiti could take the gloss of a comfortable win for the Blaugrana.

   

Hirving Lozano Not Ready for Barca Move just Yet

Hirving Lozano is the rising star of this PSV team. He powered the club to another domestic title last season before thriving for Mexico during this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Naturally, big clubs are circling, with Barca and La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid said to be keen, per Manolete of AS. ESPN FC’s Samuel Marsden noted how Lozano hasn’t been shy about talking up the prospect of joining the Blaugrana:

While his stock remains on the rise, the early evidence suggests Lozano should wait a while longer before thinking about the Camp Nou. He didn’t have many positive moments during an opening half where PSV held their own despite falling 1-0 behind.

The visitors struggled to get moving on the counter or muster a cutting edge up top. Lozano’s struggles were part of the problem:

His issues continued in the second half when profligate finishing wasted some promising breaks. Lozano blasted over when he got by left-back Jordi Alba, then saw a shot deflected after being teed up in the box by Steven Bergwijn.

He also had a goal chalked off for offside late on.

Lozano will have easier nights, but if he is going to become one of the game’s elite he’ll need to do more in his next audition against marquee opposition. The gifted forward would be wise to set his sights on impressing during the return against Barca at the Philips Stadion on November 28.

   

Messi and Coutinho Partnership Dynamic Enough to win the Trophy

Barca can always count on Messi to deliver the goods, but the club has usually only won this tournament when its main man has a credible supporting act. Fortunately for manager Ernesto Valverde, Philippe Coutinho is forming a dynamic partnership with Messi.

The two were on the same wavelength from the off against PSV. They combined effortlessly at pace by exchanging deft flicks and smart touches to leave defenders chasing shadows and create spaces for other to exploit.

Coutinho and Messi’s symmetry left onlookers wowed:

Together they were the creative catalysts for the hosts:

Linking with Messi was easy for Coutinho, who was in the mood to showcase his distinctive flair and vision:

He continued to conjure magic after the break, going close with shots from distance after meeting more neat layoffs from Messi. Coutinho stayed bright to offer a reminder of his class in what can be a defining season for the Brazil international.

Progress has been steady since he joined Barca from Liverpool back in January. However, Coutinho’s ability to supplement Messi, in the way Thierry Henry, Andres Iniesta and Neymar did in previous years, can land the Blaugrana a sixth Champions League title.

   

Ousmane Dembele’s Erratic Brilliance is Barca’s Missing Ingredient

If ever there was a perfect illustration of Ousmane Dembele’s erratic brilliance it came from his stunning strike to double Barca’s lead on 74 minutes. The curled effort from outside of the box came suddenly after a prolonged period where the talented French forward had drifted out of the game.

Replacing periods of lethargy with magic on this scale sums up the difference Dembele can make. His value as a game-changer explains why patience has been needed after a stop-start first season in Spain where injuries stalled his progress:

Dembele was linked with a switch to Arsenal this summer, but his mercurial ability means he remains an integral member of Valverde’s squad. It’s also why he can be the missing ingredient able to turn Barca into Champions League winners again.

   

What’s Next?

Barca will continue their bid to retain La Liga’s title by hosting Girona on Sunday. Meanwhile, PSV will face Ajax at the Philips Stadion on the same day.

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