Madrid, Spain | AFP | Barcelona equalled the record longest unbeaten run in La Liga history as a Lionel Messi hat-trick inspired the runaway leaders to a 3-1 win over Leganes on Saturday to make it 38 league games unbeaten.
The Catalan giants will look to break the record that Real Sociedad set in 1979-80 when they host Valencia next weekend, with Ernesto Valverde’s side now just seven matches from becoming the first La Liga side to go through a campaign without tasting defeat.
Messi was the star of the show at the Camp Nou with a magnificent treble, as Barca stretched their lead at the top to 12 points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid’s derby against Real Madrid on Sunday.
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“This unbeaten record has not only been achieved this season, but also last year under (former coach) Luis Enrique,” said Barca coach Valverde.
“It’s a shared record, because it crossed over between seasons. It has been quite difficult, because of the fact it’s an old record that hasn’t been broken for a long time.”
Valverde named a strong side despite having a Champions League quarter-final, second leg on Tuesday at Roma, with Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho all starting.
Suarez passed up two good early chances to put Barca ahead, prodding wide and then seeing visiting goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar deny him with an excellent save.
But the hosts moved in front in the 27th minute through a trademark Messi free-kick.
The Argentinian stepped up and curled the ball over the ball and into the bottom corner from 25 yards out to score his 27th league goal of the season.
It didn’t take the 30-year-old long to double his tally for the day, latching onto Coutinho’s through ball and firing low into the corner.
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Barcelona eased off in the second half, perhaps with the midweek clash at the Stadio Olimpico on their minds, and Leganes hit back midway through the second half.
Former Liverpool winger Nabil El Zhar cut inside and fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the box despite slipping as he shot.
But the home side finished off the match as a contest late on with Messi completing his third hat-trick of the season in style.