Messi and Alcacer Secure Easy Barca Win Over Athletic

Ernesto Valverde F.C. Barcelona La Liga

Liga Santander leaders FC Barcelona look to go into the forthcoming global break on a high when they entertain Athletic Club Bilbao in the Camp Nou Stadium on Sunday night.

After putting Chelsea to the sword in the Champions League midweek, Messi scored for the sixth game in a row against Athletic at the Camp Nou to propel Barca closer to the domestic title.

It was fairly remarkable that Messi and Alcacer's strikes were Barca's only goals of the opening 45 minutes given their complete control of the game.

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Barca are coming towards a key time in the season as they continue a treble bid, meaning Valverde has a nervous wait to see if any more stars are injured on worldwide duty. Some players have little knocks - like [Thomas] Vermaelen, we hope it's nothing big.

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has a few decisions to make ahead of facing the club he coached for the past four seasons: Sergio Busquets is injured and Luis Suarez suspended and the coach has to decide whether to play with three forwards and bring Paco Alcacer into his starting 11, or to play an extra man in midfield, in which case Aleix Vidal or Andre Gomes would have a chance of starting.

Kepa twice denied Messi in the 12th minute as Athletic found themselves swamped by the Blaugrana tide and the goalkeeper was beaten again soon afterwards, only for Coutinho's rasping half-volley from another Alba pass to crash off the bar.

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Coutinho struck the frame of the goal for a second time, looping an effort onto the top of the bar after an impudent flick from Paulinho, who followed his compatriot in going close by curling a shot off the outside of the post as the interval approached.

Barca extended their unbeaten La Liga run to 36 matches dating back to last season, drawing to within two games of the record set Real Sociedad between 1979 and 1980.

"The next match in Seville will be a very hard trip".

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Miguel Layun pulled a goal back for Sevilla in the 90th minute. "In the first half they were fantastic and showed why they're league leaders".

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