Lionel Messi put on a masterclass as Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 win at Espanyol in the Catalan Derbi on Saturday.
Messi scored two free kicks and assisted Ousmane Dembele for a golazo, while Luis Suarez netted on his comeback to help Barca move three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Suarez partnered the Argentine and Dembele up top after two weeks out with a knee injury, but Philippe Coutinho was the player who made way as Arturo Vidal got the nod in central midfield.
Samuel Umtiti, Arthur, Malcom and Sergi Roberto were all sidelined and joined on the treatment table by Rafinha, who was recently ruled out for the rest of the season.
Espanyol, for their part, had lost their last three League games but were just eight points behind Barca in eighth place and, despite having never beaten the Blaugrana at Cornella-El Prat in the League, did win 1-0 in the Copa del Rey last term.
Messi took just 17 minutes to curl a free kick into Diego Lopez’s top-right corner with aplomb. He then weaved his magic before teeing up Dembele, who cut inside and bend an unstoppable effort past the former Real Madrid goalkeeper.
Espanyol were then made to sweat as Suarez flicked Messi’s chipped through ball on to the post, before Lopez kept out a Rakitic effort and the No 10’s header on the rebound bounced off the woodwork.
The Uruguayan soon broke clear of the hosts’ backline and got to the byline, somehow sneaking a finish through Lopez’s legs at his near post, despite the angle going against him.
Just when it looked like Suarez couldn’t continue, Messi curled another free kick on target, this time into Lopez's top-left corner.
Espanyol thought they pulled a goal back when Sergio Garcia volleyed in a free kick from close range, but a lengthy VAR review showed the substitute was fractionally offside.
Espanyol 0-4 Barcelona
Messi 17, 65, Dembele 26, Suarez 45
Espanyol: Diego Lopez; Javi Lopez, David Lopez, Oscar Duarte, Didac; Victor Sanchez, Roca, Darder (Granero 74); Hernan (Baptistao 59), Iglesias, Melendo (Sergio Garcia 63)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic (Denis 82), Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Suarez (Munir 79), Dembele (Coutinho 68)
Referee: Del Cerro Grande