Madrid, March 15: FC Barcelona moved four points clear at the top of the La Liga thanks to a disciplined if unspectacular 2-0 win away against SD Eibar.
Two goals from Lionel Messi, his 31st and 32nd of the season, were enough to give Barcelona the three points on Saturday and pressure Real Madrid, reports Xinhua.
With an eye on Wednesday's Champions League tie at home against Manchester City and with fullbacks Dani Alves and Jordi Alba suspended, coach Luis Enrique made changes in the Barcelona midfield. He gave a surprise start to Sergio Roberto alongside Ivan Rakitic anf Rafinha.
However, there were no surprises in attack where Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez led the line at the Ipurua Stadium in Eibar.
After a run of seven straight defeats, Eibar coach Gaizka Garitano played a five-man defence and with Manu Del Moral as a lone striker.
The first half saw Barcelona control most of the ball. But neither side managed a shot on target until the half hour when Messi's shot deflected to hit Eibar defender Borja Ekiza on the arm.
Messi then buried the resulting penalty to score his 31st league goal of the season.
Javi Lara went close for Eibar with a shot that went just past the post, while Luis Suarez was on the verge of doubling Barcelona's lead on the stroke of halftime.
Messi scored his second goal of the game with a rare headed goal from a corner kick, 10 minutes after the break. He was left unmarked and his diving header beat the defender posted on the line.
Eibar went close through Federico Piovaccari, who hit the crossbar in the last minute of the game, while Pedro saw a shot saved in injury time in virtually the last action of a game of few chances.
The battle for third and fourth place in the table also heated up over the past 24 hours.
Valencia won 2-0 at home against Deportivo la Coruna to move into third place ahead of Atletico Madrid, who could only draw 0-0 away to Espanyol.
Atletico had the best of the few chances, despite playing with a player less for three quarters of the game after Joao Miranda was sent off.
But the draw means their slim title chances have now disappeared for this season.