LIONEL MESSI summoned another mesmerising performance as Barcelona breezed to a 3-0 win over Juventus in their Champions League opener at the Nou Camp.
Messi scored twice and set up his side’s second for Ivan Rakitic as Ernesto Valverde’s men capitalised on some dismal defending by the visitors to claim some degree of revenge for last season’s quarter-final loss.
Juventus had the majority of the early chances but their opportunities came to nothing and, from the moment Messi swept home the opener on the stroke of half-time, the outcome never seemed in doubt.
The visitors certainly went into the game full of confidence after a 3-0 Serie A win over Chievo at the weekend – while Messi had scored three in a 5-0 La Liga thrashing of Espanyol.
And Juve might claim the outcome could have been different had defender Mattia De Sciglio done better with a fifth-minute shot which was superbly saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal.
Ter Stegen was also tested by Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic as the hosts eased into the game, their first chance coming in the 19th minute when Luis Suarez picked up the rebound from a Messi free-kick and brought a fine save out of Gianluigi Buffon.
There were already worrying signs for Juventus with Messi being afforded far too much space in midfield and the Argentinian’s pressure almost paid off in the 38th minute when he forced an error from De Sciglio which Ousmane Dembele should have capitalised upon.
Messi grabbed the opener in the 45th minute after wriggling clear and playing a neat one-two with Suarez on the edge of the Juve box before sweeping home the 95th Champions League goal of his career.
Dybala fired over from a good chance early in the second half but from that moment on it was all Barcelona or more specifically Messi, who drove another effort against the base of the post in the 52nd minute.
Five minutes later, evidently seething from a booking for trying to convince the referee to book Pjanic, Messi darted behind the Juve defence and hit a cross which was half-cleared and fell to Rakitic who drilled home number two.
Consistently afforded a ridiculous amount of space, Messi was running the show and it was no surprise when he grabbed his second in the 68th minute, bursting clear down the right, drifting in past two defenders and firing past Buffon to make it 3-0.
Suarez thought he had made it four in the 79th minute before being pulled up for offside, before a belated recovery by the visitors who had good chances to reduce the deficit in quick succession.
First Dybala capitalised on a rare mistake in the Barcelona back-line to drill a low shot which was well saved by a stretching Ter Stegen, then Benatia’s header was booted off the line by Gerard Pique, with the visitors appealing for handball.
Faced with inevitable defeat, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri took the opportunity to hand 17-year-old Fabrizio Caligara a high-profile debut in place of the ineffective Gonzalo Higuain.