MALLORCA, Spain (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Quique Setien said his side’s 4-0 win over Real Mallorca after a three-month hiatus was the ideal launchpad for their title bid after they provisionally opened up a five-point lead over Real Madrid.
The champions got off to a perfect start in their first match since the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic and there was good news all round as Arturo Vidal headed them in front after 65 seconds and Martin Braithwaite scored his first goal for the club.
Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi struck in the second half, Luis Suarez looked lively on his return after six months out with a knee injury and 21-year-old central defender Ronald Araujo made an encouraging full debut.
“The sensations are very positive considering we had spent so long without playing. Starting like this is an enormous boost for the future,” Setien told a virtual news conference.
The coach started with a front three of Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Braithwaite, praising the contribution of the Danish forward, who joined in February after the club were given permission to sign outside the transfer window due to injuries.
“Braithwaite was excellent, he has adapted very well to our play out on the left wing and was always doing the right thing,” Setien said.
“He scored and worked very hard and you have to congratulate him because it’s not easy to arrive in a team like this and play so well.”
On Suarez, the coach added: “It was an extraordinary return, all his interventions were of the highest level and it’s the Luis we all want to see, he’ll get even sharper and is going to be crucial for us.”
There was also a strong display in defence from Uruguayan Araujo, who made his second appearance and first start since being promoted from the B team.
“He was playing in a different role to what he does for the B team but he was solid in every aspect,” Setien said.
“He has a very cool head and he did very well. He played superbly and he can be very proud.”
Barca’s next match is at home to struggling Leganes on Tuesday.
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond