Messi hat-trick downs Granada

Lionel Messi grabbed a pre-Ballon d'Or hat-trick as Barcelona barely broke a sweat to defeat Granada 4-0 in La Liga on Saturday.

Aleix Vidal replaced Dani Alves from the offset, having only appeared as a substitute against Espanyol on Wednesday, while Arda switched to the left of central midfield as opposed to the right, which was occupied by the returning Ivan Rakitic.

Elsewhere, Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Roberto both came in for Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets, the latter of whom was on the bench, but Luis Suarez's two-game ban was limited to the Copa del Rey, meaning he kept his place in attack.

With Granada being left no choice but to sit back and play on the counterattack, Barca got off the mark early doors as Suarez's dummy allowed Arda to make his first statistical contribution in Blaugrana colours, Messi toepoking his low cross past Andres Fernandez.

The Argentine then found the back of the net just six minutes later, Neymar's cross towards the back post finding Suarez, whose first touch laid the ball on a silver platter for Messi to tap into an empty net, albeit at a tight angle.

Barca ought to have put Granada out of sight before half-time, but Suarez – still suffering from his profligacy against Espanyol – somehow failed to take advantage of an empty net after he rounded the goalkeeper, before Messi failed to turn home Vidal's drilled cross, despite being unmarked.

Granada made a promising start in the second half, Isaac Success forcing a save from Claudio Bravo after cutting in from the right, before David Lomban hooked a corner onto the roof of the Chilean's net and curled a free kick on target.

Nonetheless, Messi was not to be stopped in his quest for a first La Liga hat-trick since March as Arda's dummy released Neymar for a one-on-one with Fernandez. Despite his shot hitting the post, the No 10 was in the box to mop up the rebound.

The Catalans then rounded off a convincing victory with seven minutes remaining, when Dani Alves' reverse pass for Suarez resulted in the attacker drilling the ball towards the back post for Neymar – with all the time in the world – to take a touch and fire home.

Barcelona 4-0 Granada

Messi 8, 14, 58, Neymar 83

Barcelona: Bravo; Vidal (Alves 65), Pique, Vermaelen; Alba; Sergi, Rakitic, Arda (Adriano 72); Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Granada: Fernandez; Edgar, Lomban, Doria, Biraghi; Krhin (Mainz 46), Uche; Rochina (Marquez 78), Uche, Success; Penaranda (Rober 72)

Referee: Velasco Carballo