Lionel Messi scored twice on his return from suspension as Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 win over Sevilla at the Nou Camp.
Luis Suarez opened the scoring in acrobatic style in the 25th minute, after Messi’s cross had looped up off Sevilla defender Mariano, before the Barca talisman took centre stage.
His first in the 28th minute was a fine finish after Suarez had pulled the ball back to return the favour, before the Argentina international volleyed home from just inside the box five minutes later, after Nicolas Pareja’s poor header had fallen kindly.
The result sees Barcelona go top of the table, if only temporarily, with Real Madrid playing later this evening. Sevilla, who had Vitolo sent off in stoppage time, stay in fourth as their poor form continues.
Luis Enrique went with a 3-4-3 formation, with Messi simply allowed to roam, and he almost enjoyed the dream start, but saw his curling effort in the fourth minute cannon back off the underside of the crossbar.
Down the other end, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was forced into his only meaningful contribution, as he stood tall to block a close range effort from Steven N’Zonzi.
Vitolo then had another great chance for Los Nervionenses, but couldn’t direct his header on target from Samir Nasri’s free-kick.
After plenty of pressure, Barca did eventually take the lead. Messi skipped past two down the right, whipped a cross into the middle, Mariano could only half block, the ball looped into the air, which Suarez superbly fired home over his head.
Three minutes later and it was two. Andres Iniesta threaded the ball through for Neymar, who got pulled the ball across for Suarez, who also elected to cut it back for the onrushing Messi, who stroked the ball home, through Sergio Rico’s legs.
Messi was certainly in the mood, and in the blink of an eye it was three. Pareja’s header was poor from a Neymar corner, but that doesn’t take anything away from the finish, as Messi emphatically lashed the ball home. That’s 12 goals in his last eight games against Sevilla.
Sevilla improved after the break, but the damage was done. Rico made amends for a poor clearance to get back to claw the ball out after Messi had chipped for goal.
The visitors then twice came close just after the hour mark, but Ter Stegen blocked well from Pablo Sarabia, before the same man could only to find the side-netting from a good position.
Rico was again called into action late on to deny substitute Paco Alcacer, before Ivan Rakitic lashed the rebound over the bar.
Vitolo’s dismissal for two bookable offences in stoppage time compounded Sevilla’s woes, on an evening where very little went right in the Nou Camp for the men from Andalusia.