Messi hat-trick sinks Espanyol, opens up four-point lead over Madrid

Lionel Messi hat-trick fires Barcelona to emphatic victory over Espanyol

The deflection put the ball into the path of Jordi Alba, who cut a pass back across the six-yard box for Messi to stab past Lopez.

La Liga champions Real Madrid dropped points at home for the second game running when they drew 1-1 with Levante on Saturday, with Gareth Bale squandering a series of chances and Marcelo getting sent off late on. And the Barca coach will feel justified, with the winger producing a decent display in causing problems with his pace, taking players on and creating chances.

Pele thinks the move will help the player grow, insisting that he can match the stardom he has achieved in the Brazilian national side, away from the looming spectre of Lionel Messi.

Espanyol almost gave themselves hope when Pablo Piatti smashed a snapshot against the post, but that was a rare attacking foray and the second half started with Suarez - who was enduring a frustrating night - denied a close-range goal by Lopez's smart save.

The Catalan club did manage to bring in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund and Nelson Semedo from Benfica, but the signing of Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao was not warmly received. However, Luis Suarez featured for Uruguay in the recent break and is back in contention for a starting spot after recovering from the injury he endured against Betis in Barcelona's season opener. That could have been a lifeline for Espanyol. The Spanish left back combined with the Argentine again, setting up Messi's third goal.

Espanyol were being outplayed but retained a sporadic threat, with Pique and Samuel Umtiti diverting Leo Batistao's 61st-minute shot behind.

The points were safe midway through the half when Messi and Suarez played one-twos into the box and the ball broke to Alba, with the mercurial Argentinian on hand to convert the cutback once more. While the club have maintained a winning momentum so far, it remains to be seen how the global break has its effect.

8 -- Ernesto Valverde has kept a cool head despite all the drama at Barcelona this summer and has managed to lead the Catalan club to three league wins in a row.

Lionel Messi has scored five goals so far to lead the competition.

While Barca scored five, they will also be keen to point out they are yet to concede a goal in La Liga this season: three games, three clean sheets.

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