Barcelona captain Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up two more as the Catalans thrashed Real Valladolid 5-1 to move top of La Liga on Tuesday.
Ernesto Valverde’s side ran out comfortable winners at the Camp Nou, where Saturday’s Clasico against Real Madrid was due to be played before it was postponed until December because of political tension.
The unstoppable Messi teed up Arturo Vidal with a magical pass for the Chilean to put the hosts 2-1 ahead after Kiko Olivas cancelled out Clement Lenglet’s early deflected opener.
Then the Argentine whipped a free kick into the top corner, fired home another and sent Luis Suarez through to ensure Barcelona moved top on 22 points from 10 matches.
“Leo showed all the quality he has, when he’s like that the team really feels it,” said Vidal.
“We see him every day and he surprises us every day, with the quality he has, he’s from another planet. I have no words to talk about Leo, he’s from another world, everything he does, he does well.”
Barcelona took the lead after just two minutes when the ball bounced fortuitously to Lenglet in the area and he crashed an effort in off the crossbar.
Olivas levelled after 15 minutes when Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen could only parry a free kick, with the defender deflecting the ball home.
Messi, however, helped Barcelona take control with a perfect pass for Vidal before the Argentine scored his fourth goal in four matches in all competitions and 100th under coach Valverde.
The number 10 set up Ansu Fati after the break but the 16-year-old’s shot was kept out by Valladolid’s former Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip.
Luis Suarez had a goal disallowed for offside before Messi struck again in the 75th minute, turning brilliantly before driving beyond Masip.
Messi then set up Suarez with a well-judged through-ball, which the Uruguayan dispatched with aplomb.
“They are very good and they don’t let you off the hook, Messi worked wonders,” said Valladolid captain Michel. “You just have to applaud (Messi) and enjoy him.”
Atletico Madrid held at Alaves after Perez thunderbolt
Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at Alaves as Lucas Perez’s sublime solo strike stopped the visitors moving into provisional top spot in La Liga on Tuesday.
Atletico substitute Alvaro Morata scored his third goal in three games to fire them ahead in the 70th minute as Diego Simeone’s team struggled to find top form at Mendizorroza.
Alaves’ Fernando Pacheco made fine saves to deny Spain striker Morata a second goal and to foil Angel Correa before Perez cut in from the right and lashed a thunderbolt into the top corner with seven minutes remaining.
Atletico are second after 11 games, level on 20 points with surprise leaders Granada who face Getafe on Thursday.
Barcelona, who have 19 points from nine games, can move top if they beat visiting Real Valladolid later on Tuesday.
“They (Alaves) had a great first half, better than us and then Lucas scored that tremendous goal,” said Simeone.
“After the break we were better, we won the second ball, attacked the full backs, and if we stick with that and understand what happened in the first half, we’ll be fine.”
Neither side created any chances of note in a lifeless encounter until Morata’s introduction on the hour mark.
Having scored against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League and Athletic Bilbao last weekend in La Liga, Morata continued his hot streak with a cool finish after being set up by Correa.
The Argentine forward has been impressive in the absence of record signing Joao Felix, out for a month with an ankle injury.
However former Arsenal forward Perez struck for the fifth consecutive league game to deny the 2014 Spanish champions on a frustrating night.