The win means Barcelona equal the 38-game record for remaining unbeaten in La Liga set by Real Sociedad in 1980, but more importantly it piles the pressure on Atletico Madrid who play away to neighbors Real Madrid on Sunday.
Barca's victory, secured by the 45th hat-trick of Lionel Messi's career, not only moved them 12 points clear at the summit but saw them match Real Sociedad's all-time record of 38 successive La Liga games without defeat. "It has been quite hard, because of the fact it's an old record that hasn't been broken for a long time". "This unbeaten record has not only been achieved this season, but also past year under (former coach) Luis Enrique", said Barca coach Valverde.
Ernesto Valverde's side are also seven matches from becoming the first LaLiga side to go through a campaign without tasting defeat. Messi provided the cross for Gerard Pique's late leveller at Espanyol and last weekend hammered in an 89th minute equaliser at Sevilla to complete a quick-fire comeback from two goals down, prompting coach Valverde to remark: "Every time he touches the ball, he is decisive".
The 31-year-old talisman's lackluster finishing mattered little shortly afterward as Messi provided yet another moment of magic from a dead ball situation as he bent his free kick free-kick into the far right-hand corner to give Barca the lead its performance deserved. "To score goals is always good". Perhaps with one eye on the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Roma on Tuesday they showed little of the scintillating football they are capable of.
Vincenzo Montella's side were taken apart by former striker Iago Aspas' hat-trick, as the ex-Liverpool man strengthened his claim for a place in Spain's World Cup squad.