Hat-trick hero Messi inspires Barcelona to another Spanish record
Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona set a new Spanish record of 35 games unbeaten in all competitions with a 5-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas.
Ivan Rakitic was the first on target for the Primera Division leaders, who are now eight points clear at the summit, before Messi struck twice.
Rayo had Diego Llorente sent off for a poor tackle on Rakitic, but they were still able to score the next goal through Manucho.
A second red was brandished when Sergio Busquets was fouled by Manuel Iturra and, although Luis Suarez missed the penalty, Messi was able to wrap up his hat-trick before Arda Turan fired his first goal for Barcelona.
Granada took a step towards survival by overcoming Sporting Gijon 2-0 at the Estadio Los Carmenes.
A second-half penalty by Youssef El-Arabi and injury-time strike from Isaac Success separated the rivals in a relegation tussle that was controlled throughout by the home team.
Real Betis eased their own relegation fears with a 3-0 victory at fellow mid-table team Espanyol.
Ruben Castro fired the visitors ahead after only 10 minutes and the lead was doubled from another set-piece with German Pezzella on target, before Juan Vargas completed the rout in the second half by firing a free kick into the top corner.