La Liga champions Barcelona stayed on the heels of leaders Real Madrid by coasting to a 3-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday as Lionel Messi became the club’s top scorer from free kicks.
Paco Alcacer scored his first league goal since joining from Valencia last year by turning in a pass from Neymar in the 18th minute while Messi whipped in an angled strike in the 40th, his 27th goal from a free kick for Barca.
Aleix Vidal scored the most impressive goal of the game by finishing off an audacious solo run midway in the 67th.
Luis Enrique made six changes to the team that beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in Wednesday’s King’s Cup semi-final first leg, resting top scorer Luis Suarez, and it looked a risky move as Athletic made a bold start, although the hosts’ quality soon shone through.
Barca stayed second in the standings, moving one point behind Real Madrid but have played two games fewer than the leaders, who are due to visit Celta Vigo on Sunday although the game is in danger of being postponed due to extreme weather conditions.
Third-placed Sevilla visit Las Palmas on Sunday and Atletico Madrid host Leganes later on Saturday.