BARCELONA: Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick and Lionel Messi bagged a brace as Barcelona thrashed bottom side Cordoba 8-0 on Saturday to move a step closer to their fifth La Liga title in seven years.
Champions Atletico Madrid lacked creativity against Athletic Bilbao and were held to a 0-0 draw but remained in the driving seat for third place.
Barca have a five-point lead over Real Madrid, who face a tough match at Sevilla later on Saturday. Atletico are third with a seven-point lead over Valencia who play Eibar on Sunday. Suarez’s prolific form has brought the Uruguayan 17 goals from his last 16 games in all competitions while Messi is now top scorer in the league with 40 goals — one more than Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ivan Rakitic volleyed into the roof of the net to give Barca the lead after 42 minutes at Cordoba and Suarez slotted home in first-half stoppage time.
Messi headed in straight after the restart, with further headers from Suarez and Gerard Pique as Barcelona hit their stride.
Messi scored into an open net with 10 minutes to go and Neymar converted a penalty after he was brought down by defender Adrian Gunino.
Barca showed no mercy with Suarez striking again two minutes from time to seal a resounding win with three games to go.
“Football is a very complex sport. We are on the right road but you have to start again before each game and look to create the play in order to get the results,” Barca coach Luis Enrique told reporters.
“The goals from Ivan and Luis have got us going and then in the second half we were very effective in front of goal.
“These were three key points and I am very pleased with the result.”
Luis Enrique chose not to rest players ahead of the Champions League semi-final next Wednesday against Bayern Munich with their deadly attacking trident eager for more goals.
Neymar should have scored inside two minutes but he volleyed over from close range and the game settled into a slow tempo, partly due to the high temperatures, with Barca controlling the play.
Messi jigged past three challenges inside the Cordoba area but shot straight at keeper Juan Carlos and Neymar failed to connect cleanly with a volley from 12 yards which hit the right post.
The floodgates opened, however, after Rakitic scored against a sorry Cordoba who look doomed to return to the second division after a year in top flight. (Reuters)