Barcelona’s Brazilian forward Neymar (2L) celebrates a goal during the Spanish league football match Deportivo Alaves vs FC Barcelona at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on Feburary 11, 2017.
CESAR MANSO / AFP
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on target as Barcelona went top of La Liga for the first time since October with a 6-0 thrashing of Alaves on Saturday.
In a dress rehearsal of the Copa del Rey final, Alaves paid for their semi-final exertions against Celta Vigo in midweek as Barca moved two points ahead of Real Madrid.
However, Madrid have three games in hand, starting with a visit to Osasuna later on Saturday.
Barca’s success was overshadowed, though, by violent clashes between fans outside the ground before kick-off which left one supporter in hospital with serious head injuries.
Both sides later released statements condemning the violence.
And in another blow to the Catalans, Aleix Vidal was stretchered off with a horrible looking ankle injury just three minutes from time.
“I go away with very good feelings from the football perspective, for the result and the way we achieved it,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“But I am upset by Aleix’s injury, the way it came about and what it means for him.”
Vidal had only recently established himself back in the team after being sidelined by Enrique for the majority of the season.
“It is something serious, but we have to wait until the doctors see it and can say,” added Enrique.
On the field, Enrique rotated his squad once more with six changes from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid that secured their place in a fourth consecutive Cup final.
However, despite a trip to Paris Saint-Germain upcoming on Tuesday, Messi, Suarez and Neymar were all included and ran riot.
The visitors had goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to thank for not going behind early on with a brilliant one-on-one save from Theo Hernandez.
There was no doubt over the outcome once Barca went in front thanks to a fine team move finished off by Suarez from close range eight minutes before half-time.
A goalkeeping error from Fernando Pachecho allowed Barca to double their lead three minutes later as he punched a loose ball off Suarez’s head and the ball rebounded for Neymar to tap into an empty net.
The champions hit top form after the break with four further goals in eight minutes.
Messi drilled his 34th goal of the season low past Pacheco just before the hour mark.
The Argentine was then played in by Suarez, but the last touch came off Alaves defender Alexis to make it 4-0.
Ivan Rakitic blasted home the fifth from Suarez’s cut-back before the Uruguayan rounded off the rout himself after Pacheco had parried Neymar’s initial effort.
Yet, Barca’s fine day was spoiled late on when Vidal’s right ankle gave way under an innocuous looking challenge from Hernandez.