Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde was delighted to leave Levante with an emphatic 5-0 win given his side’s travails in the same game last season.
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick and assisted goals for Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique as LaLiga’s leaders restored their three-point cushion at the top on Sunday.
Messi was rested for this fixture in May, in which Barca were beaten 5-4 and saw their hopes of going an entire league campaign without defeat dashed.
And Valverde was thrilled to earn some measure of revenge against a Levante side who are only three points outside the top five after 16 games.
“I’m happy because we conceded five here last year and that was after a whole season without losing, and it was only a few months ago,” he told a news conference.
“They’re having a great season and they showed that when they came out against us. I’m leaving here particularly satisfied.”
1 – Lionel Messi is the first player to reach double figures for both goals (14) and assists (10) in the top five European leagues this season. Celestial. pic.twitter.com/CGebViSpXy
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 16, 2018
Messi’s display left Valverde struggling to find the right words, the 31-year-old having become the first player in Europe’s top-five leagues this season to reach double figures for goals and assists.
“I don’t know how to qualify him. I don’t know how to answer the most repeated question,” he said.
“He’s the one who makes us play, who gives us amazing goals … we just have to enjoy him.”
Barca had looked a little uncertain before Suarez’s opener 35 minutes in, with Valverde forced to reshuffle his side into a makeshift 3-5-2 after Nelson Semedo was ruled out with injury at the last minute.
“The line-up was conditioned by Semedo,” he admitted. “It was a solution that was determined by injuries.
“We thought Nelson was going to play. They are used to a quick counter-attack and we had to control those situations. It cost us in the middle of the pitch, but in the second half we had total control.”
[MEDICAL ANNOUNCEMENT] Nelson Semedo is having trouble with his left knee and will be sitting out today’s game #ForçaBarça #LevanteBarça pic.twitter.com/Z6Ok0TIKXj
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 16, 2018