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Lionel Messi bags hat trick, Gerard Pique stars as Barcelona enact revenge on Levante

Lionel Messi was the star man again for Barcelona, scoring a hat trick and assisting on the side's other two goals.
Lionel Messi was the star man again for Barcelona, scoring a hat trick and assisting on the side's other two goals.

Lionel Messi scored three and made two as Barcelona crushed Levante 5-0 on Sunday to restore their three-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Barca suffered their only defeat in the league last season at Levante, losing 5-4 in Valencia in May, but never looked like losing here again once Luis Suarez gave them the lead in the first half.

Messi, whose run and cross had set Suarez up, then scored Barca's next three goals before setting up defender Gerard Pique to complete the rout late on after Erick...

Modric shows off Ballon d'Or in 8/10 showing as Madrid hold on vs. Rayo

Alejandro Moreno and Dan Thomas reflect on Real Madrid's nervy 1-0 over Rayo Vallecano in La Liga.

After a super-dramatic 2018, Real Madrid end the calendar year with a 1-0 home win against a poor Rayo Vallecano side on Saturday in one of the least entertaining Bernabeu occasions in many a year.

Positives

This was at least a victory to end the year with three points. The early goal was cleverly constructed and nicely taken. Marcos Llorente again showed his worth in holding midfield, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos either side playing well too. A third consecutive La Liga clean sheet was...

The Ousmane Dembele Show continues at Barcelona but the team back their young talent

"You win the derby well, 4-0. Sunday comes, the sun is shining and you think it's going to be a relaxing, easy day, but... the truth is, you don't expect things like that to happen but, well, what you gonna do?"

Put him back in the team, of course.

Ousmane Dembele did it again. Both its. On Saturday night, he scored a wonderful goal as Barcelona beat Espanyol 4-0. On Sunday morning, he was late to training. Two hours late, in fact. Which is not so much late as not showing up at all; it's turning...

Don't laugh, but Real Madrid could still win La Liga, Champions League this season

Real Madrid's Santiago Solari directed the words 'humbleness is the virtue' at Cristiano Ronaldo and that no matter what he says about the club he will be embedded in their history.

Gareth Bale's exceptionally elegant and three-point-winning goal for Real Madrid on Sunday was notable for a number of reasons.

You knew that it left him just five more strikes short of a century of goals for Los Blancos... right? No,  probably not. Unless you're president of the Gareth Bale appreciation society or his occasionally interventionist agent, then you're probably of the opinion that he never contributes, he's permanently in a scoring drought, he's "no Cristiano, mate!" and that...

Weekend numbers: Lionel Messi's free-kick record, Romelu Lukaku ends home rut

Craig Burley was surprised to not see a reaction from Manchester City to N'Golo Kanté's first-half goal, in Chelsea's 2-0 win over the title-holders.
Gabriele Marcotti outlines Lucien Favre's tactics in Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 win over Schalke.
Craig Burley and Adrian Healy breakdown Manchester United's thrashing of Fulham and Jose Mourinho's cryptic comments after the match.
Pep Guardiola insists anyone can win the Premier League title and there is no favourite after Man City's loss to Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho praised Paul Pogba and outlined what he needs to do to get back into the starting XI.
Jurgen Klopp insists he isn't surprised by Mohamed Salah's desire to score after he stayed on his feet during Liverpool's second goal.
Mauricio Pochettino has immediately switched his focus to Barcelona after Tottenham's 2-0 win in the Premier League over Leicester.
Niko Kovac admits Borussia Dortmund would have to make mistakes in order for Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga title.
Jose Mourinho feels Man United fans cannot point the finger at any of his players following their 4-1 win over Fulham.
Maurizio Sarri was quick to rule out Chelsea's title chances after their victory over Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho jokingly suggested Man United were trying to save money for January after he found no water at his press conference.

Chelsea stunning Manchester City and Liverpool thrashing Bournemouth to go top have made the Premier League title race exciting again. In Spain, Lionel Messi eviscerated Espanyol with a display of supreme skill, while in Italy, Juventus continued their remorseless march to an eighth straight scudetto with a 1-0 win over Inter. Here are the best numbers from an action-packed weekend of football.


15

Here's a ridiculous Messi stat: Messi has more free-kick goals over the last four La Liga seasons (15)...

Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos 8/10 as Real Madrid sneak a win at Huesca

Bale, left, scored his first goal in over 100 days and lifted Real to a big win at Huesca.

Real Madrid's first-ever La Liga visit to Huesca's El Alcoraz stadium brought a workmanlike 1-0 win. Gareth Bale volleyed Madrid ahead after just nine minutes and Santi Solari's side thereafter did just enough to gain the three points, which lifted them to fourth in the Primera Division table.

Positives

Bale's first La Liga goal in over 100 days -- and 40 shots -- will quiet some of his local critics. A second away La Liga clean sheet of the calendar year should help with confidence at the...