Barcelona swept past the challenge of Rayo Vallecano in Madrid, largely thanks to two first half goals in the space of two minutes from Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Rayo Vallecano may be comfortably the third biggest club in Madrid, but La Liga sides rarely fance a trip to the Vallecas, with the home side known for their passionate support and the side being a well organised, tight knit unit who have now firmly established themselves as consistent mid-table finishers in the Spanish top flight.
With Barcelona and manager Luis Enrique knowing that three points would take them above surprise package Valencia and back to the top of La Liga, Barca started with an attacking line up that saw Neymar, Lionel Messi and Munir all start in attack, served by the dual playmaking talents of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Despite this, however, Vallecano – playing a 4-2-3-1 system that saw in-form Alberto Bueno supporting the equally prolific Leo Baptistao – were able to frustrate their illustrious visitors in the opening stages, with former Liverpool man Emiliano Insua particularly impressive at left back.
In the end it took the intervention of central defender Gerard Pique to open the scoring for Barca, with his fine assist sending Lionel Messi racing through on goal, with the little Argentinian doing what he does best and lifting the ball into the net:
Perhaps predictably, this opened the floodgates, with Vallecano allowing Barcelona to double their lead just seconds after the restart, with the two forwards playing in support of Messi this time combining to open up the home defence. Neymar broke the offside trap to race onto a finely weighted through ball by young superstar Munir, the Brazilian taking a touch before slotting into the bottom corner beyond Tono.
The second half was something as a non-event as Barca controlled the match against a beaten Vallecano outfit without ever really going for the jugular – their task becoming even more simple when defender Morcillo picked up a second yellow card for the hosts.