Barca's blitz leaves opponents tottering

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez wheeling away in delight after scoring past Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco. Barca were irresistible as they thrashed Alaves 6-0 and will be looking for a repeat showing when the sides meet again in the Copa del Rey f
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez wheeling away in delight after scoring past Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco. Barca were irresistible as they thrashed Alaves 6-0 and will be looking for a repeat showing when the sides meet again in the Copa del Rey final in May.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Alaves put to the sword 6-0 and both sides will do battle again in the Copa del Rey final

MADRID • In a possible preview of the Copa del Rey final, Barcelona thrashed Alaves 6-0, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all on target.

Barcelona went top of La Liga for the first time since October, only for Real Madrid to leapfrog them later on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Osasuna.

Barca's success, however, was overshadowed by violent clashes between fans outside the ground before kick-off, which left one supporter in hospital with serious head injuries.

Both sides later released statements condemning the violence.

And in another blow to the Catalans, right-back Aleix Vidal was stretchered off with a horrible looking ankle injury just three minutes from time.

"I go away with very good feelings from the football perspective, for the result and the way we achieved it," said Barca boss Luis Enrique. "But I am upset by Aleix's injury, the way it came about and what it means for him."

Vidal had only recently established himself back in the team after being sidelined by Enrique for the majority of the season.

Enrique rotated his squad once more with six changes from Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid that secured their place in a fourth consecutive Copa del Rey final.

Despite a trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, Messi, Suarez and Neymar were all included and they ran riot.

There was no doubt over the outcome once Barca went in front thanks to a fine team move finished off by Suarez from close range eight minutes before half-time.

A goalkeeping error from Fernando Pacheco allowed Barca to double their lead three minutes later as he punched a loose ball off Suarez's head and the ball rebounded for Neymar to tap in.

The champions hit top form after the break with four further goals in eight minutes. Messi drilled his 34th goal of the season low past Pacheco just before the hour mark.

Alaves defender Alexis scored an own-goal to make it 4-0.

Ivan Rakitic blasted home the fifth from Suarez's cut-back before Suarez rounded off the rout himself after Pacheco had parried Neymar's initial effort.

Barcelona have 48 points after 22 games. Real Madrid restored their one-point lead over the chasing pack with a 3-1 win over Osasuna thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and substitute Lucas Vazquez.

Zinedine Zidane's side have two games in hand on Barca as they bid to win the title for the first time since 2012.

Osasuna remain bottom of the table on 10 points.

"You didn't see the difference in the number of points the teams have out on the pitch," said Zidane after Osasuna gave his side a testing game.

"We knew that we'd have to suffer here and we did but we came here to get the win, knowing we'd have to work for it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Barca's blitz leaves opponents tottering'. Print Edition | Subscribe