Business as usual for five-star Barcelona

Barcelona shrug off talk of crisis to trounce hapless Elche 5-0 at home in the first-leg of their pre-quarter-final encounter

Madrid: Barcelona eased their crisis ridden week with a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing of Elche to all but seal their place in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi
Barcelona's Lionel Messi takes on four Elche players during their Round of 16 first leg Copa del Rey match in Barcelona. Pic: AP/PTI.

Despite the speculation surrounding his future in recent days, Lionel Messi captained the side on his return to the starting line-up and scored from the penalty spot after goals from Neymar and Luis Suarez had already put the hosts in command.

Jordi Alba added a fourth before Neymar rounded off the scoring with a powerful drive from 20 yards out. Barring a meltdown in the return leg on January 15, Barca will face the winners of the tie between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid in the Last Eight.

“I don’t speak about what happens in the dressing room,” Neymar said when asked about a reported issues between Messi and Enrique. “I am happy with how the game went for me and the team. We took a big step forward. I am happy for Messi and Suarez too. Now we need to do the same against Atletico (on Sunday).”

Messi and Neymar were among eight changes made by under fire coach Luis Enrique from the side that lost 1-0 at Real Sociedad on Sunday. The two South American stars looked keen to make a point to their boss from the off and Messi’s name was chanted regularly by the sparse Camp Nou crowd in a sign of support after a difficult few days for all those at the club.

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