Lionel Messi scored four goals to inspire Barcelona to a 5-1 victory over Valencia on Sunday in the Spanish League, but the champion still remains 10 points behind leader Real Madrid.
Messi, playing his 200th game for the club, took his league goals tally to 27 for the season and 42 in all competitions although third-placed Valencia had stunned the Spanish and European champion by taking a shock early lead.
The pressure was on the Catalan side after defeat last weekend away to Osasuna and it got off to a poor start with Pablo Piatti giving Valencia the lead after nine minutes.
Martin Montoya, in the side with Dani Alves suspended, and Gerard Pique left Piatti unmarked and keeper Victor Valdes came and failed to reach a Sofiane Feghouli cross allowing the diminutive striker to tuck the ball in.
The home fans were becoming restless but Messi responded once again when his side needed him most with two goals in five minutes.
Adil Rami failed to clear a cross and Messi coolly finished from a tight angle.
The Argentine then got ahead of the Valencia defence to meet an Eric Abidal cross and while the keeper Diego Alves saved his initial shot, he was able to sweep in the rebound.
Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas were both denied by Alves while the former Arsenal player then hit the woodwork with an acrobatic effort.
The home side continued to push forward after the break with Alves stopping a Messi header with a wonderful save and Fabregas badly miscued before Messi gave Barca a cushion by firing in a rebound after another Alves block.
Messi completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes to go and then notched up his 42nd goal of the season after running clear of the defence and clipping the ball over the keeper.
AC Milan stormed back to the top of Italian League with a 3-0 win at lowly Cesena on Sunday as it made light of the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Spanish League: Granada 4 (Lopez 12, Jara 57, Uche 60, 86) bt Real Sociedad 1 (Gonzalez 10); Real Mallorca 4 (Victor 41, 65, Marti 53, Nunes 67) bt Villarreal 0; Barcelona 5 (Messi 22, 27, 76, 85, Xavi 90+1) bt Valencia 1 (Piatti 9).
Italian League: Cesena 1 (Pudil 65) lost to AC Milan 3 (Muntari 29, Emanuelson 31, Robinho 55. — Agencies