Barcelona are one win away from defending their Liga title after romping to a 5-0 derby success over Espanyol at Camp Nou on Sunday.
Luis Enrique’s men ensured there would be no repeat of the 2007 ‘Tamudazo’ derby, where a draw in the penultimate match of the season allowed Real Madrid to win that year’s league under Fabio Capello.
A brilliant early free-kick from Lionel Messi sent Barca on their way, before Luis Suarez scored twice in the second half to make it 11 goals from his last four league appearances.
Substitute Rafinha Alcantara and Neymar wrapped up the victory with strikes in the closing stages as Barca eased to a fourth straight win, in which they have scored 21 goals without conceding.
A good day for Barca got even better as closest rivals Atletico Madrid suffered shock 2-1 loss at relegated Levante to crash out of the title race, although Real Madrid defeated Valencia 3-2 and remain just a point off the pace.
Real are now the only team who can catch Barca, who go into the final weekend of the season knowing a win at Granada will ensure they are crowned champions again.
Barca’s post-Clasico wobble is now well and truly behind them and they were on their way after eight minutes when Messi – who had won the free-kick himself – curled a magnificent effort into the top corner.
The hosts thought they had made it two a few moments later, but Ivan Rakitic was denied by the offside flag as he helped Messi’s shot over the line in a crowded six-yard box after Suarez’s initial effort had been saved.
Neymar came close with a free-kick of his own, while Felipe Caicedo shot straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen – starting in place of the injured Claudio Bravo in Barca’s only change – at the other end.
Messi had a strong claim for a penalty turned down when Ruben Duarte appeared to trip him as he attempted to collect his own blocked shot in the area but Barca doubled their lead inside seven minutes of the restart when a loose pass from Pape Diop was seized upon by Dani Alves, allowing Suarez to take one touch and finish comfortably.
Suarez then netted his 37th league goal of the season just after the hour mark, freeing himself from the attention of Javi Lopez to head in Neymar’s corner, and score the 1000th in this La Liga campaign.
With 16 minutes to go, Espanyol goalkeeper Pau inexplicably let a harmless Neymar cross find Rafinha at the far post, leaving him with the simplest of tasks to tap home his first league goal of an injury-interrupted season.
Neymar got on the scoresheet himself after 83 minutes, slotting home at the far post after Alves and Suarez combined impressively to create the opportunity, and Barca will travel to Andalucia next week hoping for an equally influential MSN display as they close on the title.
Key Opta stats:
– Lionel Messi is the first player to score four free-kick goals for Barcelona in a La Liga season since Ronaldinho on 06/07.
– Messi has scored seven free kick goals this season, more than any other player in Top 5 European Leagues in all competitions.
– Barcelona have inflicted their biggest defeat in a La Liga derby since 1992 (also 5-0)
– Messi has scored nine goals in his last five Barcelona derbies at Camp Nou in La Liga.
– Rafinha has scored the quickest goal of a substitute player for Barcelona in this La Liga season (39 seconds)
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