Valverde happy to be ahead of Real Madrid

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde is happy to have pushed ahead of rivals Real Madrid early in the LaLiga season after a 5-0 thrashing of Espanyol.

A Lionel Messi hat-trick and goals from Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez saw Barca continue their perfect start to the league campaign on Saturday.

The result marked a third win from as many league games for Barca, who are top and four points ahead of Madrid after Zinedine Zidane's men drew again.

Valverde said he was pleased to be ahead of Madrid, although he conceded it meant little so early in the season.

"The distance is not significant, but it is better to be ahead than behind," he told a news conference.

"You never know what can happen. It doesn't mean anything, but being ahead is always good."

Ousmane Dembele made his Barcelona debut off the bench, setting up Suarez for the sealer at Camp Nou.

Valverde was satisfied with what he saw from the France international, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund for a reported EUR105million last month.

"I really liked his debut, as I did Paulinho's," the coach said. "The idea is that they will gradually adapt to the team."