MADRID (AFP) - Barcelona moved to the top of La Liga with a comfortable 3-0 over Celta Vigo on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, but their joy was tempered as goalkeeper Victor Valdes ruptured a cruciate ligament - an injury that will keep him out of the World Cup.
Neymar tapped home to give the hosts an early lead before Valdes collapsed to the ground holding his right knee while making a routine save.
The Spanish international was in tears as he was stretchered from the field and now looks to have played his last game for the club having already signalled his intention not to renew his contract at the end of the season.
The injury will also rule him out of the World Cup.
Lionel Messi continued his fine run of form to make it 2-0 from a wonderful Andres Iniesta pass on the half hour before Neymar rounded off the scoring 23 minutes from time.
Barca now lead Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid by two points, but both sides from the capital are in action later on Wednesday against Granada and Sevilla respectively.
"Victor Valdes has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that will require surgery," the club confirmed via its official Twitter account.
"It is very bad luck and a very costly injury, too much for a game that means just three points," Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Barca TV.
And Iniesta admitted it was difficult for the Barca players to concentrate on the game after the injury.
"It was an uncomfortable situation on the pitch. The players weren't the same, the fans weren't the same. Everything seemed a bit strange.
"The important thing now is that he recovers well."
Buoyed by Sunday's 4-3 win over Real which put them right back in the title race, Barca started brightly as Messi was adjudged to have been just offside when he thought he had opened the scoring from Iniesta's through ball.
It took the hosts just a further 60 seconds to take the lead for real as Messi fed Alexis Sanchez and his cross left Neymar with the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into an empty net.
The Brazilian then fired into the side-netting from another Messi pass as Barca tore the visiting defence apart on the counter-attack before Yoel Rodriguez made a fine save from Messi as he was once again played in one-on-one with the keeper by Iniesta.
Unfortunately for Barca, though, the most noteworthy moment of the game came midway through the half when Valdes appeared to jar his knee when trapping Fabian Orellana's free-kick at the second attempt.
The club said the 32-year-old had been taken to hospital for further tests, but Spanish media reported Valdes could be out for up to six months ruling him out for the rest of the season and the World Cup.
Messi doubled his side's advantage seven minutes later when he did finally finish off another fine assist from Iniesta for his eighth goal in his last four games.
Barca were thankful to Valdes' replacement, Jose Manuel Pinto, nine minutes after the break as he made a brilliant double save from Augusto Fernandez and Santi Mina.
And Neymar then sealed the three points after a period of Celta pressure just after the hour mark as he controlled Sanchez's pass and left two defenders on the floor before firing left-footed into the far corner.