Lionel Messi’s brilliant hat-trick fired Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Atlético Madrid that set a record for consecutive La Liga victories of 16 and stretched their lead over Real Madrid at the top to 10 points.
The Argentine World Player of the Year struck twice in 12 first-half minutes and again in the 79th to move two goals clear of Real forward Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the La Liga scoring chart with 24 goals.
The victory lifted the champions to 61 points from 22 matches and beat the previous best for straight league wins set by Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real in the 1960-61 season.
Real, who suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Osasuna last weekend, can trim the gap back to seven with a win over promoted Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu on Sunday (1800).
Atlético were looking for a morale-boosting result at the Nou Camp that would keep their hopes of European qualification alive but any prospects of derailing the Barca express were effectively snuffed out by two moments of Messi magic.
His first goal in the 17th minute was a trademark dash in from the right wing and he left several opponents trailing before arrowing a low shot past David De Gea.