Lionel Messi was in top form as he scored twice and set up two more goals to help Barcelona cruise to a 5-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday.
Neymar, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti were also on the scoresheet as Barcelona restored their spot atop the table by one point ahead of Real Madrid, who still hold a game in hand.
Messi had already hit the post before he opened the scoring at Camp Nou with a masterful solo effort against a good Celta side who have already beaten Barcelona and Real Madrid this season.
He received the ball near midfield with Celta apparently positioned to keep him in check. But he curled around his marker, sped toward the goal, cut back around a second man, and finished it off with a vicious left-footed strike.
Messi then assisted Neymar by threading a precise pass to meet his strike partner’s run into the box, where Neymar added his own exquisite touch by popping the ball into a perfect tight arc over the helpless keeper.
After their first-half goals, both strikers contributed to Rakitic’s score. And after passing for Umtiti to get his first goal for Barcelona, Messi capped the victory himself with another great goal as he ghosted around two Celta players before firing between the legs of the second one.
Karim Benzema earlier silenced his critics with a brace as a Real Madrid side lacking several of their leading stars cruised to a 4-1 victory over Eibar at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.
The visitors were without Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Marcelo in their starting XI, but still had way too much for Eibar.
France forward Benzema, who had scored only five goals in LaLiga this season coming into the game, played a part in all four goals, with James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio also on the scoresheet.
Benzema put the visitors ahead after 14 minutes before flicking home Rodriguez’s free kick moments later to make it 2-0. He then turned provider before the half-hour mark as he set up James to finish off a clinical counter-attack, and the Frenchman’s brilliant pass then also began the move which lead to Asensio’s second-half strike.
Ruben Pena grabbed a consolation for the hosts, but it was too little too late as Real returned to winning ways following their 3-3 midweek draw against Las Palmas.
With fourth-placed Real Sociedad having beaten Real Betis on Friday, Fran Escriba knew that his side needed three points to keep pace with the Basque outfit.
Before the game, Espanyol’s starting XI donned T-shirts with “Animo Asenjo” (Cheer up Asenjo) as they paid tribute to recently injured Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, who ruptured his Achilles for the fourth time in his career last Sunday against Real Madrid.
Midfielder Roberto Soriano put the Yellow Submarine in front on the stroke of half-time before Cedric Bakambu’s effort ricocheted off Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez to put the game out of reach with 10 minutes left.
Elsewhere, on-loan Darwin Machis scored a late winning goal against parent club Granada as Leganes moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory.
Granada, without an away win this season, offered almost nothing in the way of threat and mustered only one shot on target in the entire match.
But they were within seven minutes of claiming a point before Machis finished off a quick counter-attack to wrap up the points as Granada lost away for the seventh game in a row.