Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez lift first-place Barcelona over Almeria
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Luis Suarez netted two goals after Lionel Messi opened the scoring to guide Barcelona to a 4-0 victory over Almeria on Wednesday, keeping the pressure on Real Madrid in the Spanish league title race.
Barcelona's 20th win in 21 games in 2015 lifted it seven points clear at the top of the table before Madrid visits crosstown rival Rayo Vallecano later Wednesday.
Messi undid Almeria's defense with a curling shot to open the scoring in the 33rd minute at Camp Nou.
Suarez struck from near the same spot with a blistering shot in the 55th and scored again in stoppage time after Marc Bartra had added a goal of his own.
"We know that if we are not focused we won't take the three points, and if we don't do that we won't win the league," Suarez said. "We only depend on ourselves and have to keep going forward like this."
Barcelona now faces a demanding two-week stretch with league games against Sevilla and Valencia, along with a Champions League quarterfinal against Paris Saint-Germain.
Elsewhere, bottom-side Cordoba drew 1-1 at 10-man Deportivo La Coruna to end a 10-game losing streak.
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique rested several first-choice players, including Neymar and Andres Iniesta, to prepare for the run of upcoming matches.
But his side still dominated possession and created scoring chances throughout, although Almeria's defensive strategy to pack its area limited the hosts to a pair of timid strikes until Messi broke through.
Almeria appeared to have Messi under control when he received the ball pegged to the right sideline. But Messi made one move to shed a defender, and once inside the area wasted no time in bending an unstoppable left-footed strike around goalkeeper Julian Cuesta.
Messi's goal was his 44th in 43 games in all competitions this season. It took his tally in the league to 33, second only to Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo with 36.
Suarez also continued his strong scoring run over the last two months by recording his 15th and 16th goals in 31 games.
Suarez's first goal also included him receiving a seemingly harmless ball on the right side. But just like Messi, Suarez dribbled past one Almeria player and then unleashed a left-foot shot that Cuesta got a hand to but couldn't keep out.
Bartra's headed goal from a corner in the 75th was the team's third goal in as many games from a set piece, an area the Catalan club struggled at before the arrival of Luis Enrique this campaign.
Suarez completed the rout after Pedro Rodriguez drew Cuesta off his line and set up Suarez to steer the ball into the open net on the break.
Almeria's loss left the club in the relegation zone and marked a disappointing debut for former Barcelona coach Sergi Barjuan, its third manager of the season.
Cordoba's Florin Andone scored both goals in the night's other early kickoff.
He started out by putting his own team ahead in the 55th minute. But after Deportivo had been reduced to 10 men when Luis Correira earned his second booking, Andone scored an own goal with three minutes left.