Luis Suarez scored four for the second time in three days as Barcelona stayed in command of the Liga title race with a 6-0 rout of struggling Sporting Gijon.
Saturday’s scheduling meant that the top three played one after the other, with Barca reclaiming top spot in style after both Real and Atletico Madrid had short spells at the summit thanks to wins over Rayo Vallecano and Malaga respectively.
Luis Enrique’s side got their title challenge back on track with a Suarez-inspired 8-0 drubbing of Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday, and went close to equalling that scoreline at Camp Nou with the help of three penalties.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a looping header early on, before Suarez once again took centre stage after the break to take his goal tally to an incredible 53 in all competitions this season.
The Uruguayan reached his half-century by finishing a fine team move shortly after the hour, before netting two quickfire penalties to complete his hat-trick.
Neymar then got in on the act with a penalty of his own after drawing a foul that saw Ognjen Vranjes sent off, before Suarez fired in his fourth of the evening with two minutes left.
Barca and Atletico are now once again locked on points, with Real lurking one point further back with three games remaining.
Messi’s goal arrived after just 12 minutes when Andres Iniesta’s chip into the area was poorly beaten away by Pichu Cuellar and the Argentinian looped a header into the unguarded goal, the Sporting goalkeeper’s protests for a Suarez foul falling on deaf ears.
Sporting almost went in level as Bravo saved well from Pablo Perez’s effort from a tight angle, but there was controversy as Barca loanee Alen Halilovic’s follow up appeared to be blocked on the line by Gerard Pique’s arm.
Early in the second half Messi went on a trademark mazy run before flashing an effort past the left post, and Barca’s second-half pressure yielded a second goal in the 63rd minute.
A wonderful flowing move resulted in Iniesta playing a delicious pass across the six-yard box and Suarez gleefully tapped in. It was soon 3-0 when Roberto Canella’s careless handball resulted in a Barca penalty that Suarez smashed to the right of Cuellar.
And, when Neymar was bundled to ground by Antonio Sanabria, Suarez placed his second spot-kick high to the left.
A third penalty arrived when Vranjes was penalised for a foul on Neymar, resulting in a second yellow card and subsequent red, and the Brazil captain converted down the middle despite Cuellar getting a foot on his effort.
Barca were not done, though, and Suarez had his fourth with a bending effort that went in off the near post.
Key Opta stats:
– Luis Suarez is the current La Liga top scorer (33 goals). Only Cristiano Ronaldo (four times) has scored at least four goals in a single game in the top five European Leagues more times since the Uruguayan joined Barcelona (twice alongside Sergio Aguero).
– Suarez ended his worst goaless run at Camp Nou in La Liga (342 minutes).
– Barcelona have won all their last eleven league games against Sporting at Camp Nou, keeping clean sheets in six of them.
– Luis Enrique has won in all of his meetings for Barcelona against Sporting in La Liga – as player (three wins with two goals scored) and as manager (two wins).