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Messi hits brace to keep Barca on top

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Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi. Photo: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi. Photo: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi. Photo: Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored twice to bring his tally for the season to 51 goals as Barcelona beat Villarreal 4-1 at the Nou Camp to retain top spot in La Liga.

Neymar and Luis Suarez were also on the mark for Barca, who remain level on points with Real Madrid - 4-0 winners over relegated Granada and with a game in hand - but stay top because of their superior head-to-head record.

James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata both scored twice in the opening 35 minutes for Real.

Elsewhere, Gonzalo Higuain's injury-time equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Serie A leaders Juventus against 10-man Torino.

Lazio strengthened their grip on a Europa League place by thrashing 10-man Sampdoria 7-3, while Inter Milan lost 1-0 to lowly Genoa - their third straight defeat and a fif th in sixth games.

The Dutch title race was thrown wide open after Feyenoord lost 3-0 at Excelsior. Ajax grabbed the opportunity to close the gap to a point as they coasted to a 4-0 win over relegated Go Ahead Eagles.

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