Barcelona legend Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez scored a brilliant goal as Barcelona beat Real Betis 4-1 at the Benito Villamarin. The win meant Barcelona are now 10 points clear of their nearest competitor at La Liag points table.
The win will boost the confidence of Ernesto Valverde coached side’s potentially tricky trip to Seville.
Barcelona deployed a 4-4-2 formation in the absence of the injured Ousmane Dembele. They were pressing high up the pitch and the Catalans won a free-kick just outside the Betis box after 18 minutes.
Messi stepped up and curled the ball into the corner past Pau Lopez, the former Espanyol goalkeeper supposedly covering that side of the goal but powerless to prevent the Argentine’s effort.
It was Messi’s 25th free-kick goal in LaLiga in the past eight seasons and he scored again in added time at the end of the first half.
This time, it was a fine finish from the Argentine again, but the goal was made for him by Suarez as the Uruguayan put his team-mate through with a back-heeled reverse pass which took all the Betis defenders out of the equation and left the five-time Ballon d’Or in to fire past Pau.
That seemed set to thwart any hopes of a Betis revival and every time the home side attacked in the second half, Barca broke. Suarez should have made it 3-0 when he ran on to a pass from deep by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but blasted wide when it looked easier to hit the target.
He did make it 3-0 shortly afterwards, though, running at the Betis defence and beating several players before firing into the corner for a much more difficult goal.
Betis pulled one back after 82 minutes when substitute Diego Lainez teed up Loren Moron and the striker beat Ter Stegen with a fierce effort from the edge of the box.
But Barca had their three-goal advantage back after 85 minutes when Ivan Rakitic laid the ball off for Messi and the Argentine beat Pau with a delicate but extraordinary chip from just inside the box which went in off the crossbar.
It was a wonderful way to bring up his hat-trick and and it means Barca are now 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga after Atletico lost to Athletic Club on Saturday. Bets, meanwhile, drop to eighth.
The only downside for Barca was the sight of Suarez limping heavily at full-time, sparking potential injury fears for their Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United.