Barcelona opened up a four-point lead atop the La Liga table with a 3-0 win at Celta de Vigo on Tuesday. Cesc Fabregas played a hand in two goals, and Alexis Sanchez scored once as Barca remained unbeaten on the season and made up for a 2-2 draw at Celta last season.
With the victory, Barcelona moved on to 31 points, four ahead of Atletico Madrid. Celta remained 17th with nine points, just one point above the drop zone.
Following the Clasico victory over Real Madrid at the weekend, Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino rested Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar, and called in Carles Puyol, Marc Bartra, Alexandre Song, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro.
The visitors went ahead early, with Alexis Sanchez continuing his fine run of scoring form with a ninth-minute strike. Cesc Fabregas nicked the ball off Gustavo Cabral and traded passes with Pedro before forcing a save out of Yoel with a low shot. The rebound fell to Alexis, who slotted in for an early lead.
The Chilean came close again in the 13th minute, but his back-post header from Pedro's cross was saved.
Both teams produced good chances midway through the half as the match sparked to life.
First, in the 27th minute, Charles' shot from the right was saved by Victor Valdes. Moments later, Lionel Messi flashed a shot-cross wide of the far post with Pedro lurking unmarked. Then, on the other end, Rafinha's low shot rolled just wide after Barca failed to clear properly.
But if Barcelona were not at their best in the first half, they needed little time to find their stride in the second.
In the 48th minute, Messi played a give-and-go with Alexandre Song, who laid off for Cesc outside the box. Cesc curled his shot off the underside of the bar and into the net off Yoel, who was credited with an own goal for a 2-0 Barca advantage.
Valdes saved again from Charles in the 52nd minute as Celta looked to respond straightaway. But Barcelona made it 3-0 moments later, and Cesc was the scorer once again.
Messi took possession with time and space in the middle, dribbling to the edge of the box before laying off for Cesc. The former Arsenal man took a couple touches and finished low at the near post.
Messi then forced a save from Yoel with a low shot at the near post as Barcelona pressed their advantage. The Argentine came close again in the 81st minute, but Yoel pushed aside his shot with Pedro unmarked on the far side.
In the end, though, Barcelona were comfortable, having held 60 percent of possession. The Blaugrana now head into Friday's home match against Espanyol having won 10 of 11 league fixtures this season.
|Barcelona Player Ratings|
|Samuel Marsden, B/R|
Big picture, Barcelona: B+
Barca weren't at their best in the first half, and Celta certainly had chances to equalise. But after the break, Barcelona turned on the style and ran out comfortable winners.
Their level of play early in the second half was superb, and it's no stretch to say Barca could have scored even more. A well-worn football cliche says that winning while below top form is the mark of a champion.
Barcelona were below top form in the first half, but their second-half surge more than made up for it. With the win, Tata Martino's men are now four points clear of Atletico at the top of the table—and nine above Real Madrid.
Barcelona host Espanyol in the league on Friday. Celta play at Sevilla on Saturday.