Lionel Messi scored for the sixth game in succession as Barcelona moved 11 points clear atop LaLiga thanks to a routine 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.
The leaders were missing the injured Sergio Busquets and the suspended Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but they had few issues in brushing aside Ernesto Valverde’s former club to move further ahead of Atletico Madrid, who visit Villarreal later on Sunday.
Victory capped another impressive week for the Catalan giants, who dumped Chelsea out of the Champions League on Wednesday to set up a quarter-final against Roma, and this straightforward success moved them a step closer to regaining the domestic crown from fierce rivals Real Madrid.
Paco Alcacer, selected as Suarez’s replacement, opened the scoring in the eighth minute – his first league strike since November – before Messi doubled the advantage with his 35th goal of the season in all competitions.
Barca utterly dominated the opening period and would have gone into the break with an even healthier lead had Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho not struck the woodwork on three occasions between them.
Just four days after an encounter with Chelsea that was more exacting than the 3-0 scoreline suggested, the intensity understandably dropped in the second half, but Valverde’s men were able to keep Athletic at arm’s length to ensure they head into the international break in buoyant mood