Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez made a dazzling return to league action on Wednesday evening, as their goals led Barcelona to a 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon and established a six-point cushion at the head of La Liga.
Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi netted both of Barca's opening two goals before being joined on the scoresheet by strike partner Suarez, who made up for an earlier penalty miss by extending his team's lead late on.
Luis Enrique's side have now played the same amount of matches as the rest of La Liga and used their game in hand to reiterate their candidacy to claim back-to-back Primera Division titles.
By all accounts, the Blaugrana could be on track to a historic second successive European and domestic treble, leading Bet365 to celebrate their imperious form of late:
Barcelona's updated form:— bet365 (@bet365) February 17, 2016
Rewriting history ✅ pic.twitter.com/vbMFtT9Uu9
Messi came into Wednesday's tie sitting on the brink of yet another Barcelona landmark, and after 25 minutes, the Argentina ace etched his name further into Spain's history books by netting his 300th La Liga goal.
Bleacher Report UK noted Messi's latest massive achievement, which broke the deadlock and set Enrique's men on their path to breathing space at the Primera Division summit:
However, while the attack looked to be in flying fashion, the defence seemed all too lacklustre when Sporting's Carlos Castro was permitted to equalise just two minutes later.
Alex Menendez found space on the left side of Claudio Bravo's area before flashing a low, driving cross to the back post, where Castro was on hand to slide the ball in all too easily.
It was Suarez who provided the assist for Messi's first, and he once again laid the groundwork for his team-mate to double his tally for the night, as the Press Association's Richard Martin hailed the highly effective tandem:
Messi-Suarez-Messi. This is becoming rather common. Great hold up play by Suarez, the type Barca rarely had before he arrived— Richard Martin (@rich9908) February 17, 2016
Neymar had his chance to get in on the action, but the Brazilian could only tip the post after attempting to follow up on a saved Messi shot before the half-time whistle.
It looked as though Barca would increase their lead, too, when Suarez stepped up to slot home a 61st-minute penalty, but Sporting No. 1 Ivan Cuellar was equal to his effort.
In typical MSN fashion, that miss at least brought Messi, Suarez and Neymar level on spot-kicks missed this season, according to Goal.com's Ben Hayward:
Messi, Neymar and Suárez have all now missed penalties for Barcelona this season. Should have passed it, guys!— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) February 17, 2016
However, it didn't take the Uruguayan long to dust himself down and collect the goal he should have scored five minutes earlier, wrapping a left-footed effort across the goal and inside Cuellar's far post.
Sky Sports Statto illustrated just how potent an attacking force Suarez has been for the Blaugrana this season, reinforcing his place atop La Liga's scoring charts:
Luis Suarez scores his 40th goal this season in his 36th app. La Liga's top scorer with 24 (Ronaldo 21, Benzema 19) pic.twitter.com/o1ad2jOEyw— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 17, 2016
As a result of Wednesday's triumph, Enrique's men have also extended their club-record unbeaten run to 31 matches, having last suffered against Sevilla in October.
It also brings about the end of Sporting's own fine run of late, having gone four matches without defeat before playing host to the Blaugrana, leaving them two points above the relegation zone.
Barca were successful in the first of their road-trip fixtures, next travelling to Las Palmas on Saturday before making their way to Arsenal next Tuesday for the first leg of the Champions League round-of-16 clash.
All eyes were on the brilliance of Messi on Wednesday, and Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu took the opportunity to congratulate his club's leading star personally after the away result:
The first player to score 300 goals in the league. Congratulations to Leo and the team!— Josep Maria Bartomeu (@jmbartomeu) February 17, 2016
Barcelona may have prevailed in their trip to Gijon, but the result was touch-and-go for a period following Messi's second on Wednesday, and the team ultimately earned the respect of their coach.
Per the official Barcelona Twitter account, Enrique said after the match that his team had shown a "complete performance," and he can only hope it continues as they enter a tough patch of their campaign.