After two years of successive heartbreak in Europe, Barcelona got their 23/24 Champions League campaign underway tonight against Royal Antwerp.
In matchday one of the group stages, the Catalans turned on the style and got off to a wonderful start with a resounding 5-0 win against the Belgians to follow up their wonderful result against Real Betis.
The first half was a show of the kind of fluid attacking football that Barcelona fans have been hoping and praying for over the last few years.
Their Champions League season could not have gotten off to a better start, but they cannot lose focus, because last season’s campaign also began on a high before derailing.
The Catalans must keep this momentum up to ensure they make it into the knockout stages.
Here is every player’s individual display from their European season opener under the microscope.
Marc Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
Calmly dealt with whatever came his way as he was largely untested for most of the game, but kept control of his box and distributed well from the back.
Joao Cancelo: 8.5/10
In his 50th Champions League appearance, Cancelo kept up his form from the Real Betis game as he acted almost entirely as an extra midfielder rather than a right-back, posing a constant threat going forward but always on hand to track back.
Won six duels and completed 84 out of his 86 attempted passes, and in general, he was absolutely everywhere.
Jules Kounde: 8/10
Another rock-solid showing from the Frenchman at centre-half. Recovered well when needed and kept Vincent Janssen comfortably at bay, as well as sweeping up a couple of counterattacks very well.
Andreas Christensen: 7.5/10
Kept up his impeccable partnership with Kounde as he marshalled his side of the defence and did not let much slip through.
Even managed to get forward in the second half as the Catalans assumed their comfortable first-half lead.
Alejandro Balde: 7/10
Continued to show his attacking threat bombing down the left flank constantly and making full use of his recovery pace to thwart the Antwerp attack when called upon, but also left some spaces on the counter which were luckily not exploited.
Frenkie de Jong: 8/10
De Jong in full flow is a joy to watch, and his recent form has been nothing short of impeccable, as he once again drove the ball forward with trademark elegance.
His passing ability was also on full display, as he carved open the Antwerp defence with a stunning through ball to Joao Felix that eventually led to Barcelona’s second goal.
Ilky Gundogan: 8/10
Replacing an in-form Oriol Romeu in the midfield, Gundogan kept things ticking superbly in the middle of the park, and was a fulcrum in the one-touch passing move that led to Felix’s opening goal.
Enthusiastic as ever, Gavi hounded the Antwerp players in the offensive press and drove with the ball well, but picked up an almost customary yellow card for his troubles.
Added the sweetener on a great display after lashing home a left-footed finish ten minutes into the second half to make it 4-0.
Returning to the starting lineup for the first time since the opener against Getafe, Raphinha brought out all the tricks and flicks, showed confidence in taking his man on, and also kept his composure in the box before putting in the cross that led to the third goal.
He also put in a peach of a cross to assist Joao Felix for the fifth and final goal of the night. The Brazilian showed all that he is capable of tonight.
Robert Lewandowski: 8/10
Another successful outing for the veteran striker saw him notch his 100th goal in UEFA club competitions and a 92nd in the Champions League.
Liberated by Felix, the Pole continued to make threatening runs and got into striker’s positions; his run at the back post for his goal being the perfect example.
Joao Felix: 9/10
Keeping up the momentum from the league game against Betis over the weekend, Felix’s energy was incredible as he put in some great recovery tackles, showcased some wonderful close control, and linked up play seamlessly.
Opened the scoring with a clinical finish in the 11th minute after a great, quick passing sequence and brought his teammates into the game adeptly.
And then added the cherry on top in the second half with a peeling run and header at the back post for his third goal in two games.
Lamine Yamal: 5.5/10
Became the youngest player in Barcelona history to debut in a Champions League game, showed his ability to get into good positions and could have – and probably should have – scored on two occasions.
Oriol Romeu: 7/10
A tough call to bench Romeu after the form he has been in lately, but he did superbly well when called upon in the second half, adding defensive stability and keeping things simple with the ball at his feet.
Fermin Lopez: 6/10
A confident Champions League debut for the midfielder, who kept up the attacking impetus an even had a few attempts from range.
Sergi Roberto: 6/10
Continued to push forward and tried to keep up Barcelona’s attacking momentum and did not do much wrong.
Ferran Torres: 6/10
‘The shark’ had a solid cameo, getting into good positions and developed attacks well.