Barcelona make just one change for derby with Espanyol

Valverde_cropped

Valverde_cropped

Messi opened the scoring with a brilliant free-kick at RCDE Stadium on Saturday, with Ernesto Valverde's men looking to open up a three-point lead atop the table.

The visitors were in complete control and could have been out of sight shortly afterwards as both Luis Suarez and Messi rattled the woodwork, but the Uruguayan did eventually add his name to the scoresheet on the stroke of the break to all but put the game to bed.

But, after 17 minutes, another moment of brilliance from Messi broke the deadlock.

Barcelona go into the game against Espanyol having beaten Cultural Leonesa 4-1 in the Copa del Rey, with some key players, including Suarez, having been rested for that fixture. Messi curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, with the ball turning away from the outstretched arm of Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez. This time, Lopez didn't even get close to making a save.

To their credit Espanyol started the second half on top but they could do little to stop Messi, who beat Lopez again with another unbelievable free-kick in the 65th minute, this time from 30 yards.

Barcelona will be without Malcom for two weeks after ankle injury
Suarez curled home a delightful second from distance to double the lead and Malcom headed in the third from Ivan Rakitic's cross. The injury forced the former Bordeaux man to come off in the final minutes of Wednesday night's victory over Cultural Leonesa .

That allowed Atletico Madrid, who recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over fourth-placed Alaves, to briefly move level on points with the top two.

Messi was prevented a hat-trick by a smart Diego Lopez save in the 69th minute, and Espanyol thought that they had registered in the 73rd minute when Duarte converted a Sergio Garcia free kick.

- Luis Suarez has scored eight goals in nine appearances against Espanyol in La Liga - only against Real Madrid and Real Betis (nine) has he scored more often in the competition.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored a pair of handsome free kick goals against Espanyol on Saturday.

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