Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol: Messi Hat-Trick Inspires Dominant Barca Victory in 168th Derbi Barceloni
Barcelona's impressive Derbi Barceloni record continued with a 5-0 win over fellow Catalonian side Espanyol, a fixture they have lost only nine times since 1928 inside the Camp Nou, thanks to a sublime solo show from star-man Lionel Messi.
The Argentine bagged his 38th career hat-trick - with two in the first half and one in the second - before Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez rounded up proceedings with two late goals on a night where the majority of the football played was certainly not free flowing or exhilarating.
But Barca did more than enough to sweep aside the spirited Budgerigars and now find themselves top of La Liga as one of only two sides who still hold their 100% winning record.
The opening 25 minutes of the Catalan derby was certainly one for the purists, with Suarez's venomous free kick from range the only action of note.
However, as is so often the case, when Barcelona require a moment of magic it falls upon the shoulders of Messi, and the Argentine wizard was in no mood to disappoint.
A questionably timed run, with the 30-year-old clearly starting in an offside position, was found by Ivan Rakitic's sly through ball, however it would have been cruel to cancel out the intricate trickery which followed - as the attacker danced through numerous defenders before powering his effort into the top left-hand corner.
The duo almost combined again moments later, this time in reverse order, as Messi became provider in a similar fashion by sliding Rakitic in on goal, but the strong left hand of Pau Lopez was enough to palm the effort away to safety.
However, the 22-year-old custodian could not repeat similar heroics during Barca's next effort on goal, which was fortunate to say the least, as Messi was on hand to simply tuck away his second of the evening following Jordi Alba's squared ball.
The Argentina international attempted to weave his way through the visitor's defensive line, however was thwarted by a well-timed standing tackle which seemed to end the attack - only for the deflection to cannon off the head of the hapless retreating Papa Bouba Diop into the path of the unmarked defender inside the area and from there the finish was academic.
As the clash approached half time the quality and tempo returned to that of the opening quarter, in which there were unconfirmed reports that Marc-Andre ter Stegen completed an online shop and read the entire Harry Potter series, however the Budgerigars did come close to grabbing one back in the dying moments of the opening 45, but were denied only by the German's upright.
Thankfully the second half started on a brighter note, with Suarez twice coming close to further increasing the host's lead.
However, it was Espanyol again who should have scored - with Pablo Piatti this time being unable to capitalise on Alba's error which saw the ball fall generously into the striker's path with Ter Stegen advanced, but the 28-year-old could only pull his lobbed effort wide.
A quarter of an hour later the visitors were finally made to pay for their lacklustre finishing as Messi wrapped up all three points - notching his 38th career hat-trick in the process.
The Argentine maestro was found by Alba inside the area after being fed by Suarez following strong hold-up play, and the 30-year-old made no mistake in dispatching his effort into the bottom right-hand corer to secure his third of the night.
The fixture closed out with the hosts continuing to control the game, as they had done all evening, and their dominance again shone through with five minutes to go as Pique rose above all else inside the area to convert Rakitic's fiercely-whipped corner.
As the tie entered into stoppage time new man Ousmane Dembele was on hand to mark his Barcelona debut with a sublime first-time assist, which was met by Suarez at the back post to finish with ease - simply adding the cherry onto a totally dominant performance.