LA LIGA: LIONEL MESSI SCORES HAT-TRICK AS BARCELONA PUT FIVE PAST LEVANTE

Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick, with Luis Suarez coming off the bench to score a stunning scissor volley, as Barcelona thumped Levante 5-0 to close the gap on Real Madrid to just one point.

Luis Enrique made no less than eight changes to the starting line-up that faced Villarreal in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Tuesday, with Pedro Rodriguez favoured to Suarez up front alongside Messi and Neymar.
The result means Barcelona have now won 11 consecutive games since losing to Real Sociedad at the start of the year, with Enrique’s men hitting top form. And this was another display of scintillating football, as Levante were flattened by the rampant Catalans.
Neymar gave Barca the lead after 17 minutes, looping a mishit volley over the goalkeeper from a pinpoint Messi pass to the back post. Messi found the net himself seven minutes before the break, latching on to a through ball and coolly finishing into the bottom corner.
The Argentine scored his second and Barcelona’s third just before the hour mark, finishing from close range after Pedro’s cut-back from a Sergio Busquets pass over the top. Messi wrapped up his hat-trick from the spot, following a foul on Neymar by Ivan Lopez.
But the highlight of the match came when Suarez powered a swivelled, overhead scissor kick into the bottom corner of Diego Marino’s net, meeting a looping Adriano cross first time on the full volley. 

KEY MOMENTS
17’ - GOAL! Barcelona 1 Levante 0: The home side have the lead that they have been threatening to take, with a mishit Neymar shot finding the net from a Messi cross. 
38’ - GOAL! Barcelona 2 Levante 0: Messi latches onto a pass in the inside-right channel and sends a cool shot into the far corner. Game over after 38 minutes... 
54’ - WHAT A CHANCE: How haven't Barcelona scored a third there? Neymar breaks down the left side and squares for Messi inside the area, but the pass was slightly behind him and Levante recover. 
59’ - SO CLOSE: That was almost incredible! Barcelona work their way through the Levante backline with a series of one touch passes, but somehow it doesn't end up in the net, with Neymar putting it wide. 
59’ - GOAL! Barcelona 3 Levante 0: And there's the third goal! It had been coming. Busquets picks out Pedro, who squares for Messi and the number 10 finishes. 
38’ - GOAL! Barcelona 2 Levante 0: Messi latches onto a pass in the inside-right channel and sends a cool shot into the far corner. Game over after 38 minutes...
54’ - WHAT A CHANCE:
How haven't Barcelona scored a third there? Neymar breaks down the left side and squares for Messi inside the area, but the pass was slightly behind him and Levante recover. 
59’ - SO CLOSE: That was almost incredible! Barcelona work their way through the Levante backline with a series of one touch passes, but somehow it doesn't end up in the net, with Neymar putting it wide. 
59’ - GOAL! Barcelona 3 Levante 0: And there's the third goal! It had been coming. Busquets picks out Pedro, who squares for Messi and the number 10 finishes. 
65’ - GOAL! Barcelona 4 Levante 0: There's the fourth and Messi's hat-trick. The Argentine sticks the ball away from 12 yards and the points are safe.
72’ - GOAL! Barcelona 5 Levante 0: What an excellent goal from Suarez! The former Liverpool striker sends an overhead, scissor volley into the bottom corner. 
87’ - MARINO SAVE: Good save from Marino! Messi hammers a half volley on the bounce towards goal, with the Barcelona number 10 driving forward from deep. But the Levante goalkeeper tips over the bar. 

KEY STATS 
Lionel Messi has now scored 269 goals in 300 La Liga games for Barcelona.
Messi has assisted more Neymar goals (10) than any other Barcelona player in all competitions.
Barcelona have now scored 26 goals in their last six games in all competitions.
Luis Enrique's Barcelona has tied Pep Guardiola's record for most consecutive official victories at the club, with 11. 

TALKING POINT
Are Barcelona finally back to their best? The defeat to Real Sociedad at the Anoeta at the start of the year will go down as a watershed moment in Barcelona’s season, and Enrique’s coaching career. Since then the Catalans have won 11 consecutive games, playing some exceptional football in the process. Are the club finally stepping out from under the shadow of Pep Guardiola? The way they’re playing right now, perhaps. 

MAN OF THE MATCH
Neymar: This aware could have gone to a whole host of Barcelona players, with Messi, Suarez and Pedro all impressing, but Neymar lit up the first half and was a key figure in almost every goal for the home side. The Brazilian now has 24 goals in all competitions this season, and has quickly become the second in command for the Catalans, behind Messi of course. All those doubts that were held against him last season now seem especially foolish. 

PLAYER RATINGS
Barcelona: Bravo 6, Adriano 6, Mascherano 5, Bartra 7, Montoya 6, Xavi 7, Busquets 7, Rakitic 5, Neymar 9, Messi 9, Pedro 8. Subs: Roberto 6, Suarez 8. 
Levante: Marino 6, Tono 5, Ramis 5, Navarro 6, Lopez 4, Diop 5, Simao 6, Morales 5, Xumetra 5, Uche 4, Barral 6. Subs: Casadesus 4, Jason 6, Mari.

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