Madrid: Barcelona pulled six points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga when Lionel Messi netted his seventh double of the campaign and set up Alex Song to open his account for the club in a 3-1 success at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday.
World Player of the Year Messi took his league tally for the season to 17 with a pair of beautifully executed finishes as unbeaten Barca moved on to 34 points from 12 matches.
Atletico have 28 points ahead of their game at Granada on Sunday, while third-placed Real Madrid closed to within two of their city rivals when they crushed visiting Athletic Bilbao 5-1 in Saturday’s late kickoff.
After Jon Aurtenetxe’s early own goal, Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira were on target for Real as Jose Mourinho’s side continued their recovery from a poor start to their title defence with a seventh win in eight games.
Real have now put 19 goals past Bilbao in their last four league meetings at the Bernabeu and the big surprise of the night was that Cristiano Ronaldo failed to add to his 12 La Liga goals this term.
The former Manchester United forward returned to action after suffering a gash above his left eye in last weekend’s 2-1 win at Levante that forced his withdrawal from the Portugal squad to play in Gabon midweek.
Messi, who also netted a hat-trick at Deportivo Coruna last month, opened the scoring in the 16th minute at the Nou Camp when he picked up Jordi Alba's pass and clipped the ball into the bottom corner.