Football: Messi, Suarez propel Barca seven points clear

BARCELONA (AFP) - Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were on target as Barcelona moved seven points clear at the top of La Liga with a 4-0 win over Almeria on Wednesday.

The hosts took over half an hour to make the breakthrough, but Messi did so in style as he curled home his 44th goal of the season into the far corner.

Suarez made the game safe when he fired into the top corner 10 minutes after the break and bagged his second of the evening in stoppage time after Marc Bartra headed home the third from Xavi's corner.

Real Madrid can move back to within four points of the leaders when they travel to Rayo Vallecano later on Wednesday.

With a tough trip to Sevilla to come on Saturday, Barca boss Luis Enrique made six changes to the side that won 1-0 at Celta Vigo on Sunday with Neymar and Gerard Pique among those rested.

And Enrique's men were given a wake up call on 15 minutes when Wellington Silva's shot across goal came within inches of giving Almeria a shock lead.

Pedro Rodriguez then fired a cross from Messi wide and Xavi Hernandez volleyed straight at Julian Cuesta as the pressure began to build.

There was nothing Cuesta could do when the opener did arrive on 33 minutes as Messi found space on the edge of the area and curled brilliantly into the far corner with pinpoint accuracy.

Suarez made sure of Barca's 20th win in their last 21 games in all competitions with a little help from Cuesta the keeper got a hand to the Uruguayan's powerful effort but couldn't keep it out.

A consistent feature of that run has been the Catalans sudden ability to score from set-pieces and they did so for the third consecutive game 15 minutes from time when Bartra rose highest to power home Xavi's in-swinging delivery.

Messi saw a goal wrongly ruled out for offside and then forced Cuesta into a fine late save from a free-kick as he had to settle for just the one for the evening, which leaves him still trailing Cristiano Ronaldo by three in the race to be La Liga's top scorer.

However, Suarez was gifted his second when Pedro unselfishly picked out the former Liverpool man to roll into an empty net.

At the other end of the table Cordoba ended a 10-game losing streak, but were denied victory at fellow strugglers Deportivo la Coruna as Florin Andone scored at both ends in a 1-1 draw.