Barcelona maintained their 13 point lead at the top of La Liga with a 3-1 win against Rayo Vallecano as Lionel Messi bagged another two goals.
The brilliant Argentine made the first goal for David Villa on 25 minutes and then doubled the lead himself in the 40th minute after an assist from Villa, extending his remarkable scoring run in the Spanish league to 18 consecutive matches.
Messi then finished the game off as a contest with a brilliantly taken third goal for Barcelona not long after the break, notching his own 42nd league goal of the season by skipping around defender Anaitz Arbilla on the counter attack and chipping the goalkeeper with his left foot - assisted for a second time by Villa in the build-up.
Former Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo came off the bench to score a consolation goal for Rayo with his first touch on 70 minutes, but it was too little and too late to cause any major worry for Barcelona.
The Catalan giants started the match ten points ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table having played one game less and were looking to continue their good form after the remarkable Champions League destruction of AC Milan in midweek.
The absence of three key players - Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Victor Valdes – meant that they had to be alert against complacency after their heroics against Milan but the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Javier Mascherano and goalkeeper Jose Pinto all stepped up to the plate with good performances.
However, it was Messi who was really the difference between the two sides, as he made the first goal for Villa in the 25th minute with a devastating run from midfield and a sweet pass which left the Spanish forward with little work to do.
Villa repaid the favour with assists for both of Messi’s goals, though it was the Argentine who really tore Rayo apart with his second and Barcelona’s third shortly after the break as he dashed forward and skipped past a helpless Arbilla before lofting the ball over goalkeeper Ruben. That goal ended the match as a contest and although Tamudo made his notable cameo appearance the three points never looked in doubt for Barca as the clock ticked down.
Rayo Vallecano are having a decent season overall and have hopes of finishing in a European classification spot, with fourth place not beyond their reach with a good run of results, but it is their away form which continues to let them down.
Like their hosts, they were also without key players, defender José Manuel Casado, midfield player Javi Fuego and Brazilian striker Leo Baptistao, all suspended, and the Madrid side’s weaknesses at the back away from home were exposed again.
With an international break coming now and with Barca hopeful that Tito Vilanova can return to take charge of the team again soon, this match could be temporary boss Jordi Roura’s last as stand-in first team manager.
Despite some testing moments Roura has done a fantastic job as deputy - and should hand the team back to his colleague in good shape as and when Vilanova is able to return to work.