Messi struck his 20th league goal this season after 19 minutes in a dominant Barça display at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez to seal the UEFA Champions League semi-finalists’ sixth straight victory in the Spanish top flight. The Argentina forward picked up Xavi Hernández’s pass in the area, skipped around a group of defenders and struck a deflected shot that had enough power to beat goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković.
Brazilian defender Marcelo scored the only goal as Madrid accounted for relegation-threatened Recreativo, keeping Barcelona in range ahead of their meeting at the Santiago Bernabéu in two weeks’ time. City rivals Club Atlético de Madrid won 3-0 at home to struggling Numancia and moved up to fourth place, above Valencia on goal difference, thanks to second-half strikes from midfielder Éver Banega, striker Diego Forlán and winger Simão.
Atlético and Valencia have 49 points although Unai Emery’s side have a chance to cut the eight-point gap to third-placed Sevilla FC when they host the Andalusians on Sunday. Málaga stay seventh on 47 after a 1-1 draw with visiting Mallorca, one place above Deportivo La Coruña following their 1-0 victory at Athletic Club Bilbao. Villarreal, sixth on 48, visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.