Lionel Messi Double Sends Barcelona 13 Points Clear

Lionel Messi Double Sends Barcelona 13 Points Clear
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Lionel Messi continued his remarkable run of form with a second-half double as Barcelona continued their march towards the La Liga title on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Espanyol.

The visitors gave their city rivals a tough game at the Camp Nou, but Messi's chipped free-kick with 19 minutes to play and a late second sent the reigning champions 13 points clear at the top ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid's game at Alaves later on Saturday.

Messi has now netted eight times in his last four games for Barca, and leads the way in the La Liga scoring charts with 31 goals, 13 ahead of teammate Luis Suarez.

Ernesto Valverde's men struggled to break down Espanyolearly on, with Messi, Suarez and Ivan Rakitic all wasting half-chances in thefirst period.

Barcelona saw a penalty appeal waved away by both thereferee and VAR on the stroke of half-time, and Malcom was denied just afterthe hour mark by away goalkeeper Diego Lopez as the Catalan giants grewfrustrated.

But Lionel Messi has been consistently unplayable thisseason, and he dinked in a wonderful effort from a set-piece despite VictorSanchez's best efforts to clear on the line.

The points were sealed in the 89th minute as Malcom ranclear on the breakaway, before cutting the ball across for Messi to sweep atrademark finish low into the bottom corner.

Barcelona next visit Villarreal on Tuesday with a secondsuccessive title looking even more like a mere formality after a sixth straightvictory extended their unbeaten league run to 17 matches.

Earlier on Saturday, fourth-placed Getafe missed the chanceto solidify their spot in the Champions League places as they slumped to a 2-0home defeat by Leganes.

Uruguayan Michael Santos and Juanfran scored in the second half for Leganes to give Alaves the chance to move into the top four with a win over Atletico.

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