By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona warmed up for the El Clasico with Real Madrid next weekend with a 7-0 victory over Osasuna that put them four points off the top of La Liga.
The Argentine struck the opener after 18 minutes in a morale boosting victory for the Catalan side ahead of the crunch game at the Bernabeu.
Barca knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League last Wednesday but went into the Osasuna clash on the back of two defeats from their past three league games.
Chances continued to come and go before Messi bagged another with a shot into the roof of the net from close range just after the hour before substitute Cristian Tello netted with a powerful strike.
Messi was given time in the area to score his third late on, his 18th of the season, and then he set-up Pedro to complete the rout in stoppage time.
Brazilian Neymar was a surprise absentee from the starting lineup in a win that left Barca on 66 points from 28 matches, four behind Real and one behind Atletico Madrid who beat Espanyol 1-0 on Saturday.
(Editing by Josh Reich) nL3N0MD0D5
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Real Madrid
- El Clasico
- Andres Iniesta