Paco Alcacer scored twice on a rare start for Barcelona, who made it 10 wins out of 11 in La Liga with a 2-1 victory over Sevilla on Saturday.
Lionel Messi became only the third player in Barca’s history to reach 600 appearances after Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, who recovered from a hamstring injury.
He was joined in the Blaugrana’s attack by Paco Alcacer, the former Valencia striker replacing Gerard Deulofeu on the right wing.
The Andalusians, meanwhile, were without defensive trio Daniel Carrico, Nico Pareja and Gabriel Mercado, as well as creative midfielder Joaquin Correa.
Messi instantly cut back for Sergio Busquets in Sevilla’s penalty area, but the midfielder’s close-range finish was blocked by David Soria, before Ivan Rakitic smashed an effort just wide from 25 yards out against his former club.
Luis Suarez remained stuck on three goals in 2017-18 after he failed to lift a one-on-one over Soria, and that was almost countered by Luis Muriel, who fired just wide of Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal, having picked the pocket of Samuel Umtiti.
Iniesta then launched a piledriver from just outside the area, but it whistled inches wide of the visiting goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
It was soon Alcacer’s turn to catch the eye, and despite heading a cross over, he quickly put the miss behind him, running on to Suarez’s through ball and coolly poking a finish past Soria.
Messi almost fed Alcacer for his second ball, having weaved in and out of Sevilla’s box unopposed for exactly 20 seconds, but the latter slipped before he could pull the trigger.
The second half began with Muriel arrowing a shot towards the top-left corner of Ter Stegen's net, but it was brushed over by the goalkeeper.
Moments after Nelson Semedo came across Pablo Sarabia to block the winger’s shot in the Barca box, however, Guido Pizarro powered an unstoppable header past Ter Stegen from the corner.
Gerard Pique was horribly beaten in the air by the goalscorer, and he almost made amends when he thundered a strike onto Soria’s crossbar from some way out.
Still, Ivan Rakitic’s beautifully-whipped cross into the Sevilla area from the right was flicked home by Alcacer, who scored his ninth goal in as many starts for the Catalans – before being subbed off straight after.
The No 17’s departure slightly unbalanced the match in Los Nervionenses’ favour, but Clement Lenglet should’ve conceded a penalty when his arm denied Suarez from a few yards out.
Messi, for his part, failed to turn in a rebound and ultimately marked the occasion with a yellow card deep in stoppage time as Barca nonetheless stayed unbeaten in La Liga, four points clear at the top.
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