Lionel Messi's astonishing recent goal glut continued yesterday when he struck twice in a 2-0 win for Barcelona at struggling Racing Santander to trim Real Madrid's lead at the top of La Liga back to 10 points.
The three-time World Player of the Year took his tally in his last six matches -- five for Barca and one for Argentina -- to 16, including a record five-goal haul in last Wednesday's 7-1 Champions League victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
Real had to come from a goal down to beat Real Betis 3-2 in Seville on Saturday, when Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, and they set a club record of 10 successive wins on the road in coach Jose Mourinho's 100th game in charge.
With 12 matches left, Real have 70 points, with Spanish, European and world champions Barca on 60. Third-placed Valencia dropped further behind on 44 after letting slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Real Mallorca yesterday.
"We had to put in a lot of effort," said Barca coach Pep Guardiola.
"We did things well on a pitch that did not help the circulation of the ball," he added, in a reference to the poor state of the playing surface.
"They put nine men behind the ball and that is never easy."
"He (Messi) is a different player to the rest of the world," said former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, who played in Barca's youth ranks with Messi.
"It's a pleasure to play with him because it gives you that extra confidence that all champion teams need.
"He is a very humble and hard-working player who simply loves playing football."
Meanwhile, in Italy, Juventus hit the woodwork three times and had a goal controversially disallowed as they were held 0-0 at Genoa yesterday, their sixth draw in seven Serie A games, to leave them further behind leaders AC Milan.
Juve dropped four points behind champions Milan, who beat Lecce 2-0 with goals from Antonio Nocerino and Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- the Swede's 19th league goal of the season.