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Luis Suarez scores twice as Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona outclass Espanyol

Suarez scores twice as Messi-inspired Barcelona outclass Espanyol

18/12/2016 at 22:51Updated 19/12/2016 at 00:11

La Liga, Camp Nou - Barcelona 4 (Suarez 18', 67', Alba 68', Messi 89') Espanyol 1 (Lopez 79')

Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a statement 4-1 win over city rivals Espanyol, halving Real Madrid’s advantage at the top of La Liga.

The Argentine was at his sparkling best, contributing two assists with a couple of mazy dribbles and nothing a goal of his own late on. Espanyol didn’t play particularly poorly, but they stood no chance against Messi in this kind of form.

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Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez

Messi, Neymar and Luis SuárezEurosport

Luis Suarez gave Luis Enrique’s side the lead after 18 minutes, latching on to an Andres Iniesta pass over the top and poking a finish past Diego Lopez in the Espanyol goal, who was withdrawn due to injury in the second half.

Barcelona scored two goals in three minutes between the 67 and 69 minutes to put the derby out of sight for the visitors, with Messi flicking home a nonchalant finish in stoppage time to complete the scoring at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi celebrate a goal against Espanyol.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi celebrate a goal against Espanyol.Eurosport

TALKING POINT - Could Andres Iniesta drag Barcelona back into the title race?

This win saw Barcelona half Real Madrid’s lead at the top of La Liga to just three points. Of course, Real were at the Club World Cup this week and will have a game in hand to catch up when they get back, but there is a sense nonetheless that Barca are dragging themselves back into contention. The difference? Iniesta is back. With the playmaker involved Barcelona are an altogether proposition, as he underlined with this display.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo might have picked up the 2016 Ballon d’Or last week, but in this form there is nobody on planet football like Messi. The Argentine was at his sparkling best against Espanyol, putting on two assists and scoring one himself. Messi was unplayable, with Flores even seeking out the number 10 to congratulate him at full-time. He was sensational this evening.

Messi (Barcelona)

Messi (Barcelona)AFP

PLAYER RATINGS

Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Alba 6, Pique 5, Mascherano 5, Roberto 5, Busquets 6, Denis 5, Iniesta 8, Messi 9, Neymar 8, Suarez 8. Subs - Rafinha 5, Umtiti 6.

Espanyol - Lopez 6, Lopez 5, Lopez 6, Reyes 5, Martin 5, Fuego 6, Diop 6, Piatti 6, Jurado 5, Gerard 6, Caicedo 5. Subs - Roberto 5, Melendo 5, Reyes 6.

KEY MOMENTS

18’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: Barcelona have the lead in the derby! Iniesta's long pass is taken into the stride of Suarez, with the former Liverpool striker poking a finish past Lopez in the Espanyol goal.

29’ PAST THE FAR POST! Barcelona came forward on the rapid counter attack, making the most of an Espanyol slip, but Messi shoots wide of the far post after good work by Neymar.

40’ BUSQUETS INJURY CONCERN! The midfielder is down on the turf after taking a crunching challenge from Diop, but it looks like he is set to continue, much to Lucho's relief.

67’ GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol: Barcelona have their second goal of the game! Sensational dribbling skill from Messi sets up the rebound shot for Suarez, who made no mistake finishing.

68’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Espanyol: Another sensational goal! Messi once again beats about four players, then plays it out to Alba who finishes low into the far corner of the Espanyol net. Wow!

80’ GOAL! Barcelona 3-1 Espanyol: Espanyol have a goal back! A long ball is cushioned down for Lopez to stride on to, lashing a left footed finish past Ter Stegen to give the away team something to cling to.

90’ GOAL! Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol: He has his goal! 90 minutes have just ticked over and Messi has the goal his performance deserves. The Argentine flicks home a nonchalant finish on the volley.

KEY STATS

Diego Lopez has conceded 28 goals against Barcelona in La Liga, more than against any other side.

Barcelona have won their last eight Liga games at Camp Nou against Espanyol.

Lionel Messi has scored 15 goals against Espanyol in La Liga, more than any other player in the history of the Catalan derby.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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