Lionel Messi came off the bench to help Barcelona to a win over Real Betis, scoring two and setting up another.
There was no sign of Messi in the starting lineup, leading to speculation over whether the Argentine was injured, being rested or had been dropped due to his recent underwhelming form.
Barca started well and took the lead after 22 minutes when Ousmane Dembele controlled an Antoine Griezmann pass, shifted the ball on to his left foot and unleashed a ferocious strike into the back of the net.
Griezmann had the opportunity to double Barcelona’s lead after Ansu Fati was felled inside the area by Aissa Mandi, but the French forward saw his penalty kick saved by Real Betis goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo.
This opened the door for the visitors to find a way back into the match, with Toni Sanabria smashing a finish past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in first-half stoppage time after a cross from Cristian Tello.
Messi was introduced for the start of the second half and made an instant impact, stepping over a Jordi Alba cross to present Griezmann with an opportunity he couldn’t miss. The Argentine also found the back of the net himself after Mandi stopped a Dembele shot on the line with his hand. The Betis defender was sent off for his crime.
Loren Moron gave 10-man Betis a way back into the match, coming off the bench to finish an Alex Moreno cross, but Messi grabbed a second to stave off the fightback, firing in at the near post after being played through by Sergi Roberto.
Pedri completed the scoring late on, grabbing his first La Liga goal by getting on the end of a Roberto cross to the back post, sending Ronald Koeman’s men up to eighth place in La Liga before the international break.