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Lionel Messi and Neymar score twice to lead Barcelona past Elche

Barcelona achieved a comfortable 6-0 away win against Elche in Matchday 20 of La Liga. Star attackers Lionel Messi and Neymar both had braces while centre-back Gerard Pique and winger Pedro added a goal each to lead the team's dominant performance. The club enjoyed 77 percent of possession, created 12 goal-scoring chances and attempted 11 shots, eight of them were on target.

Luis Enrique opted to rotate several of his key players in a match in which the Catalans were the clear favourites. Such theory was quickly confirmed once the ball started rolling, with the visitors controlling the game effectively while trying to find gaps within their opponents' backline.

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Barcelona's first goal scored by Pique in the 35 minute from an astute move by Xavi, changed the game completely. From that point on, Barca were able to build on that lead comfortably. The many goals that followed were a clear reflection of the vast difference in terms of budget and quality between both clubs.

The Catalan club's third consecutive victory in the domestic league helps them keep the pressure firmly on current leaders Real Madrid. While the difference is still one point despite Los Blancos having played one fewer game, Barcelona's fans hope that their team's current streak will help them climb to the top of the table sooner rather than later.

Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Claudio Bravo, 6 -- Rarely challenged and looked in control from beginning to end. Was not forced into making any decisive contributions but will be delighted to add yet another clean sheet to his already impressive record.

DF Martin Montoya, 6 -- Trusted with yet another start ahead of Dani Alves. Efficient defensively, his passing was generally accurate when pushing forward. However, he has to work on his crossing accuracy and judgment whenever he reaches the byline. However, his performances of late show a clear improvement to be proud of.

DF Marc Bartra, 7 -- Efficient when tackling, calm under pressure and always capable of positioning himself correctly in order to win challenges. Another confident performance from a youngster, who is now in a position to truly challenge for a starting spot in major games.

DF Gerard Pique, 8 -- Solid, focused performance at the heart of the Barcelona defence. His awareness in set-pieces allowed him to score the game's opening goal, his fourth of the season, in what was a decisive moment. The Catalan centre-half has now started eight of the last nine league games for Barca, showing how his significance within the team has grown in the last couple of months.

DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- Used his blistering speed and impressive current form to become a constant nightmare for Elche to defend against. He also combined well with Neymar, interchanging positions continuously when overlapping. Alba gave Barca a vital advantage when pushing forward.

MF Javier Mascherano, 7 -- Played in his preferred position as a holding midfielder and, as usual, completed the task the manager gave him to the very best of his abilities. Ensured the hosts had very little chance to cause Barca any significant danger with his well-timed tackling and understanding of the game.

MF Xavi Hernandez, 7 -- His undisputed vision and ability to find teammates helped him lead the Blaugrana midfield. As always, made his teammates significantly better thanks to his unrivalled passing. Xavi looks visibly committed to impress his manager in order to regain a spot in the starting XI when crucial matches are to be played in the near future. Encouragingly, showed he still has plenty of class to offer.

MF Rafinha Alcantara, 7 -- A disciplined performance from a youngster who continues to grow at an incredibly encouraging rate. Played the ball confidently, passed the ball accurately and did not take many unnecessary risks. Complemented Xavi's game well thanks to his efficiency when attempting to recover control of the game as soon as the Catalans lost possession.

It was a good all-around team effort from Barcelona as the side poured in six goals at Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero.

FW Neymar 8 -- After a first half in which he took fewer risks than usual, the Brazilian came to life after the break and set the game on fire with an impressive brace. His connection with Messi continues to grow on and off the pitch, enabling the No.11 to take his game to new heights on a weekly basis. Completed the whole game, in what is certainly a rarity in recent times.

FW Pedro Rodriguez, 7 -- Started the game ahead of regular starter Luis Suarez, who remained an unused substitute for the whole match. The Spanish international added his usual dynamism and relentless pressing to Barca's front line, forcing Elche's defenders into many errors. Rounded up a performance to be proud of with a late goal following a quick counter-attack.

FW Lionel Messi, 9 -- The quadruple Ballon d'Or winner continued to show off his excellent form of late with yet another couple of goals and two more assists. He already has 21 goals in the league, taking his personal tally to 31 in all competitions, and the numbers truly speak for themselves.

The Argentinean star is clearly enjoying his football again after his very public outburst with Enrique earlier in the month, which is tremendously reassuring news for the millions of adoring Barcelona fans around the world. Luckily, the club's undisputed leader is as hungry for victory as ever.

Substitutes:

DF Adriano, 6 -- Replaced Alba after 70 minutes, adding fresh legs and giving the Spanish international much-needed rest ahead of the Copa clash against Atletico Madrid in midweek.

MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Substituted Mascherano with 20 minutes to go. Helped the Catalans retain possession in the dying moments of the match.

MF Sergi Roberto, NR -- Came on for Xavi after 72 minutes, performing well within Barca's passing transitions in a game that was already virtually won by then.

Francesc Tomas is a freelance Catalan columnist who writes for Barcablog.com, WeLoveBarca and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @TomasESPN.

 

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