Lionel Messi leads convincing Barcelona past Espanyol | Quick Reaction and Player Ratings

Lionel Messi lead Barcelona to a remarkable 5-0 over local rivals Espanyol in what turned out to be a match to remember. The Argentinean star, who is unfortunately still to sign his new Barca contract, put all those external matters aside to do what he does best: Guide the Blaugranas to victory with his lethal finishing, visionary passing and contagious leadership.

Contrary to what most predicted, Ernesto Valverde decided to field a starting eleven full of players who had just returned from international duty, clearly defying the FIFA Virus that Barca had so often suffered from in recent seasons. The manager was also able to grant Camp Nou debuts to both Ousmane Dembele and Paulinho, as well as give some much-needed time to Andre Gomes late in the second half -- All encouraging signs of what is to come.

Far from looking awfully tired after endless hours wasted travelling and defending their national colours, Barca's starting eleven decided to take the bull by the horns and decisively push for a victory from the initial whistle. Their high tempo, dynamism, self-belief and willingness to press desperately whenever dispossessed resulted in one of the most powerful collective performances in recent memory. Whether this is a result of Valverde's influence is obviously too early to tell but, clearly, there are many encouraging signs to be optimistic about.

Match stats:

Francesc's player ratings

Ter Stegen - 7
Semedo - 9
Umtiti - 7
Pique - 8
Alba - 7
Busquets - 7
Rakitic - 8
Iniesta - 7
Deulofeu - 7
Suarez - 7
Messi - 9

Dembele - 8
Paulinho - 7
Gomes - n/a

Want more Barca? In Episode 31 of The Barcelona Podcast, we bring you the latest on Messi's contract, Benedito's vote of no confidence, Barca B's progress and more! Check it out here:

The Barcelona Podcast is brought to you by Francesc Tomas (as seen in ESPN, The Guardian) and Dan Hilton (Barcablog). Listen in for our opinionated take on the hottest breaking stories from the Camp Nou!