Messi hat-trick powers Barca past Espanyol

Ernesto Valverde banks on debutant Ousmane Dembele to make instant impact against Espanyol

As the tie entered into stoppage time new man Ousmane Dembele was on hand to mark his Barcelona debut with a sublime first-time assist, which was met by Suarez at the back post to finish easily - simply adding the cherry onto a totally dominant performance.

Suarez's trials continued as he looped an attempt on to the roof of the net having been set up by Messi - both forwards jogged back into position wearing rueful smiles.

"We are at the start of the season and the differences are not significant, but it sure is better to be ahead than behind", Valverde said.

He got his second by sliding to redirect Jordi Alba's pass by goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Espanyol's Pablo Piatti was unlucky not to pull a goal back when his sweetly-struck left-footed volley came back off the post just before half-time.

Five-time Ballon d'Or victor was in fine form, opening the scoring in the 26th minute, following up again ten minutes later, utilising expert service from Jordi Alba, sealing his hat-trick with more than 20 minutes remaining.

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Los Blancos were the dominant side through the game, but they were reduced to 10 men late in the second half when Marcelo was shown a straight red card for kicking out.

Samuel Umtiti blocked a goal-bound strike from Espanyol winger Leo Baptistao before Barcelona wrapped things up after 67 minutes.

- Espanyol have only scored twice in their last nine visits in LaLiga to Camp Nou, conceding 31 goals at an average of 3.44 per game.

However, the hosts were not to be denied in the 26th minute as Messi collected a pass from before firing into the top corner, 1-0.

Barca have a stunning fixture coming up in just a few days' time as they go head-to-head with Juventus in their UEFA Champions League 2017-18 opener on Tuesday.

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