It’s been almost a decade since Barcelona entered a season as underdogs in the title run. Today, in a 5-0 win over Espanyol, was the first time Los Cules looked like a title team, even if most of it was Lionel Messi taking his ability and execution up a notch, finishing with an effortless hat trick.
Meanwhile, not too far away from there, Real Madrid drew, at home, for the second straight match. They’ve now lost four points in a title race that’s always about being extremely uncharitable when it comes to giving away points to the minnows of La Liga, which is pretty much everyone except for Real, the current Spanish and European champions, and Barcelona.
With a squad that looks weaker than last season and most importantly, weaker than what Real Madrid have to offer, this season was always going to be about Messi, first and foremost. So far, even if it’s been in his own sleepy-looking way, it’s been working fine.
After scoring twice in the win over Alaves and helping against Betis by forcing an own goal, Messi was at his most clinical in the win over Espanyol, scoring 3 goals to make it 5 already this season, followed by Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, in probably the first evening this season Barcelona fans felt like they have a team that can go all the way.
Real Sociedad are the only other team besides Barcelona that can count up to nine points from the first three matches, and while this season is extremely long (35 more matches to go), a 4 point lead so early is always a welcome thing in Catalonia, especially when those dropped points came at home.
If Barcelona win the title this season, it’ll be mostly because of Messi, who is probably just a bit past his peak, but is also probably still the best footballer in the world, and completely capable of carrying this less heralded Barcelona team to a title that for the first time in ages would be considered a surprise.