Barca boss Ernesto Valverde heavily rotated his side for the first time since taking charge with six changes from Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe. And contrary to their fortunes last season, Barca's back-ups proved Valverde can take the luxury of resting some of his star names with Paulinho particularly impressive on his first start. The host had goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank early on for not falling behind though as he made a smart save when one-on-one with Sergi Enrich just four minutes in.
Another magical night for Lionel Messi ...⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ Scores four goals against Eibar ??? Brings up 39th hat-trick for Barcelona#UCL pic.twitter.com/2gqU1RLWyu — #UCL (@ChampionsLeague) September 19, 2017
Messi opened the scoring in nonchalant fashion from the penalty spot on 21 minutes after Nelson Semedo had been felled by an ungainly challenge from Alejandro Galvez. Paulinho's 40-m-euro ($48m) signing from Guangzhou Evergrande was one of a series of moves that drew stinging criticism for Barca's board following Neymar's world-record departure for Paris Saint-Germain. However, after coming off the bench to score the winner at Getafe, Paulinho powered home his second Barca goal from Suarez's corner seven minutes before half-time.
FT: Barcelona 6-1 EibarLionel Messi scores ⚽⚽⚽⚽ in the rout! This is his first four-goal game since 2013. pic.twitter.com/dYV9DnoBBK — ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 19, 2017
Paulinho also played his part in Barca's third with a cute dummy that freed Messi and, when his shot was parried by Marko Dmitrovic, Suarez fired home the rebound. Enrich reduced the arrears when he capitalised on some sloppy Barca defending to slot home David Junca's cross. However, Messi quickly restored Barca's three-goal lead with a lovely measured finish from the edge of the box.
Lionel Messi for Barcelona across all competitions this season:pic.twitter.com/r6qTyy81CH — Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 19, 2017
The five-time world player of the year completed his 43rd career hat-trick just after the hour mark by prodding through Dmitrovic's legs from Paulinho's pass. And he added his 12th goal in just eight games this season three minutes from time after a neat one-two with Aleix Vidal. Barca lead second-placed Sevilla, who host Las Palmas on Wednesday, by five points with Valencia now just a point further adrift as their unbeaten start to the season under new coach Marcelino Garcia Toral continued at Mestalla.
There's no place like home for Lionel Messi ? pic.twitter.com/kEBxTSjNsm— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 19, 2017
By contrast, a fifth straight defeat to start the season sees Malaga slip to bottom of the table and plunges coach Michel into further danger of becoming the second La Liga boss to be sacked this term. Santi Mina got the rout started after just 17 minutes with a neat header from Carles Soler's cross. Zaza then completed his first ever hat-trick with three clinical close-range finishes between the 55th and 62nd minute before substitute Rodrigo rounded off the scoring.
Lionel Messi has now scored 40 goals in 38 games across all competitions in 2017; more than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. ❄️ pic.twitter.com/i7g811TiDA— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 19, 2017
And the former Juventus striker shrugged off a bust-up with Marcelino after being dropped for Saturday's 1-1 draw at Levante. TUESDAY'S RESULTS Valencia 5 (Mina 17, Zaza 55, 60, 62, Rodrigo 87) Malaga 0 Barcelona 6 (Messi 21-P, 59, 62, 87, Paulinho 38, Suarez 53) Eibar 1 (Enrich 57) POINTS TABLE Teams P W D L GD Pts Barcelona 5 5 0 0 15 15 Sevilla 4 3 1 0 5 10 Valencia 5 2 3 0 6 9 Sociedad 4 3 0 1 4 9 Real Madrid 4 2 2 0 5 8 Atletico 4 2 2 0 5 8 WEDNESDAY'S FIXTURES Leganes v Girona, Athletic v Atletico, Deportivo v Alaves, Real Madrid v Betis, Sevilla v Las Palmas
Lionel Messi: 28th career La Liga hat trick- 16th different opp. - Back-to-back hat tricks at home in La Liga, 1st since 2014 pic.twitter.com/D9yBpN2KpS — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 19, 2017