NEWS
Sunday December 16 2018
Lionel Messi hits hat-trick as Barcelona batter Levante

Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona battered Levante 5-0 on Sunday to stay top of La Liga.

See how the action unfolded at Ciutat de Valencia with our liveblog!

Messi had a hand in all five of Barca's goals against a Levante side who had Erick Cabaco sent off, while the Catalans kept three consecutive clean sheets in the League for the first time since March.

Nelson Semedo's late injury saw him join Sergi Roberto on the sidelines, so the Blaugrana went with Thomas Vermaelen, Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique in a back three. Elsewhere, Arturo Vidal started on the right side of midfield and Luis Suarez returned alongside Lionel Messi up top, but Philippe Coutinho is only a substitute.

Levante, meanwhile, had gone four games without defeat and famously beat Barca 5-4 on the penultimate day of last season to end their hopes of a perfect Liga campaign.

It seemed both sides had picked up from where they left off in May, but instead Barca made the breakthrough when Messi clipped a reverse ball for Suarez to knock in on the half-volley.

Messi then went from provider to scorer as Sergio Busquets played a perfectly-weighted through ball to release the No 10, who angled a finish past Oier Olazabal.

The Argentine followed up with a second goal straight after the restart, turning home Jordi Alba's pullback, before Arturo Vidal gifted him a tap-in after Suarez had left his marker for dead.

Levante's evening went from bad to worse when Erick Cabaco saw red for lunging recklessly into Ousmane Dembele, and Messi unselfishly laid off Pique to confirm La Manita in the dying embers.

Levante 0-5 Barcelona

Cabaco sent off 76 (L) Suarez 35, Messi 43, 47, 60, Pique 88 (B)

Levante: Oier; Rober, Postigo (Prcic 70), Cabaco; Jason, Bardhi, Campana, Tono; Rochina (Coke 69), Boateng (Mayoral 62), Morales

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Pique, Lenglet, Vermaelen (Arthur 52); Vidal (Coutinho 78), Rakitic, Busquets, Alba; Messi, Suarez, Dembele (Denis 81)

Referee: Gonzalez Gonzalez

Football Italia website