Arda atones for Madrid mistake, but Alcacer's Barca wait goes on
It was a happier night for Arda Turan and for Barcelona. The former Atletico midfielder was criticised by many for his late foul against Real Madrid that allowed Los Blancos to steal a late point at the weekend. But he responded emphatically against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Turan's career at Barca has been a curious one. After signing in the summer of 2015, he had to sit out for six months due to Barca's ban from registering new players. That meant it was a slow start and his debut campaign never really got going.
This second season has been much better and the Turkey midfielder was particularly useful early on, with Neymar away at the Olympic Games. In fact, all of his best performances have come on the wing for Barcelona - and so it proved again in this one.
Arda atoned for his Madrid mistake with an impressive display against Monchengladbach. The 29-year-old provided the assist for Lionel Messi to open the scoring after a neat link-up with the Argentine attacker in the first period and later added a second-half hat-trick to prove that he has a part to play in this team after all.
Turan headed home at the far post to make it 2-0 after 50 minutes, before adding another shortly afterwards with a clinical low finish into the bottom right corner from 15 yards out and he completed his first-ever hat-trick for Barca as he smashed home from close range half-way through the second period.
It will have been an enjoyable moment for the Turkey midfielder after Saturday's Clasico error, when Luis Enrique complained to the media that he had given "clear instructions" to his players that they should avoid conceding free-kicks in dangerous areas in the latter stages.
Later, in the press room, the Barca boss backtracked, saying he could not blame any player in the heat of the moment. And he gave Arda a chance to prove himself here. Turan did just that and more, finishing the night with three goals and an assist before being taken off to a big ovation from the Camp Nou crowd with 16 minutes remaining, replaced by youngster Marc Cardona.
In midfield, the return of Andres Iniesta to the starting line-up (having featured as a substitute in the Clasico) improved Barcelona, the Catalans playing more passes in the first half than in any Champions League game on record (583, of which 105 were made by the Spain star alone).
t is perhaps hard to draw too many conclusions in a match in which neither side had anything much to play for, but Andre Gomes was also much better with Iniesta alongside him, in the absence of Sergio Busquets, while Denis Suarez did well and even Aleix Vidal looked good at right-back.
In attack, meanwhile, Paco Alcacer showed signs of improvement as well. The summer signing completed 90 minutes for only the fourth time in a Barca shirt and always looked to participate with good movement and link-up play, but he is still not getting the breaks in front of goal and is yet to score in 11 appearances now for the Catalan club.
That will be a concern for Luis Enrique, but at least the Barca boss can rely on Arda to deliver - albeit when the Turkey midfielder is utilised on the wing.