MADRID - Barcelona blasted Almeria 8-0 to match their biggest ever away win but remained second in La Liga behind Real Madrid who thrashed Athletic Bilbao 5-1 on Saturday.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick for Barca, taking his tally for the season to 13, while substitute Bojan Krkic scored twice, Andres Iniesta and Pedro bagged one apiece and Santiago Acasiete netted an own goal.
Barcelona's biggest away win since they hammered Las Palmas by the same scoreline in 1959 led to struggling Almeria sacking their coach Juan Manuel Lillo soon after the match.
At the Bernabeu, La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo also bagged a hat-trick to move on to 14 goals, while Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Ramos also netted to ensure Jose Mourinho's side maintained their one-point advantage at the top.
With nine days to go until unbeaten Real visit the Nou Camp the Madrid side have 32 points from 12 matches.
Barca have 31 points and have opened up a seven-point lead over third-placed Villarreal who drew 1-1 at home with local rivals Valencia, who are fourth with 21.
Villarreal's Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi equalised in the 73rd minute to cancel out Aritz Aduriz's 21st-minute opener.
Injury-hit Valencia had Lithuanian defender Marius Stankevicius sent off 10 minutes from time but Villarreal could not find a winner and lost their 100 percent home record.
Pep Guardiola rested Gerard Pique and put youth team player Andreu Fontas alongside Carles Puyol at the back but he had little to do as his side tore the hosts apart.
David Villa's backheel amidst a crowd of defenders completed a neat one-two with Messi, and the Argentine fired past Diego Alves from the edge of the area in the 17th minute.
Almost immediately, Iniesta made it 2-0 by pouncing to score as a defender deflected a pass in the area with his leg and in the 27th similar panic led to Acasiete steering Maxwell's cross into his own net.
Fontas demonstrated his class with a majestic long pass out of defence for Pedro to scamper clear and score in the 35th and two minutes later Messi burst into the area on to Pedro's pass and scored at the second attempt.
Guardiola took off Xavi and Iniesta for the second half and Almeria forced Victor Valdes to touch a shot on to the crossbar, but the action was soon back down the other end.
Bojan picked up Messi's through pass and made it 6-0 after squirming between three defenders in the 62nd, and Messi completed his hat-trick after Alves could only parry Villa's long-range shot.
Messi set up Bojan for his second in the 73rd and a bewildered Alves could only smile and shake his head as he went to pick the ball out of the back of the net yet again.
"It wasn't a normal game. I don't know if it was because we did well or they did badly but we made the most of our chances," Bojan told Spanish television.
"They are three important points and the 'clasico' is only another three points, but it's true the result helps us to keep moving forward."
Jose Mourinho was watching from the stands at the Bernabeu, completing his two-match touchline ban, and saw his side race into an early lead with Gonzalo Higuain's clever turn and shot in the 19th.
Portugal's Ronaldo doubled the advantage with a low drive on the half-hour after a great cushioned lay-off from Mesut Ozil before Spain striker Fernando Llorente pulled one back for the visitors.
Angel Di Maria won a penalty in the 57th which Sergio Ramos scored and Ronaldo netted a fierce free-kick and then Real's second penalty to wrap up the win in the last minute.comments