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La Liga: Messi scores 400th in rout; the Madrids hold serve

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A roundup of all of the weekend’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Barcelona 3-0 Eibar

Lionel Messi became the first player to ever score 400 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues (WATCH HERE), because of course he did. Other than that, Sunday was little more than a routine day out for Barcelona, who maintained their five-point lead in the title race with a 3-0 victory over Eibar.

Luis Suarez put the home side ahead after just 19 minutes; Messi made it 2-0 in the 53rd; Suarez grabbed another to complete the scoring six minutes later.

That’s six straight league victories for Barca, and seven straight without defeat.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Levante

Atleti have prevailed as the main — if not only — formidable title challengers to Barca, now five points clear of third-place Sevilla and fourth-place Real Madrid. Alas, the same gap still exists between themselves and the defending champions.

All Diego Simeone’s side can do is keep winning and hope that Barca slip up somewhere along the way. Sunday’s home clash with 11th-place Levante was something of a grind, but Antoine Griezmann’s 57th-minute penalty kick was just enough to extend Los Rojiblancos‘ unbeaten run to 16 games. The trouble, of course, is that they have dropped points in seven of them.

Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid

Dreams of the title have long since gone for the other Madrid — probably — as their attention should now turn to a full-on rebuild of an aging squad. In the meantime, Los Blancos are still made up of a number of world-class players. Take, for instance, 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric, who scored one of the best goals of his brilliant career on Sunday.

Betis equalized in the 67th minute, though, setting the stage for one of the club’s former favorites, Dani Ceballos, to break the home fans’ hearts in the 88th.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Girona 1-1 Alaves (Saturday)
Villarreal 1-2 Getafe (Saturday)
Leganes 1-0 Huesca (Saturday)
Valencia 1-1 Real Valladolid (Saturday)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Sevilla

La Liga roundup: It was a truly splendid day to be Barcelona

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

Getafe 1-2 Barcelona

Sunday could not have gone any better for current leaders — now five points clear of their closest title competition — Barcelona. Not only did everyone else drop points — more on that in a moment — but Ernesto Valverde’s side picked up its fifth straight win, with many thanks to the contributions of two familiar faces.

You shouldn’t give Lionel Messi one look at goal, let alone two. Alas, that’s exactly what Getafe did in the 20th minute. David Soria did well to make the save on Messi’s initial effort, but an unlucky ricochet saw the undisputed greatest player of all time reclaim possession with a suddenly empty net. The outcome was predictable.

Speaking of Getafe not fully clearing dangerous balls into the penalty area, Luis Suarez’s sensational volley might still be soaring on a perfectly level plane if not for the back of the net.

There was also the small matter of Messi playing one of the most impossible through balls to ever be completed, even if the chance wasn’t converted on the other end.

Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Coming into the weekend, second-place Atletico Madrid trailed Barca by just three points; Sevilla, in third, were five back. In the eyes of anyone who subscribes to “anyone but Barcelona again,” a draw was the worst possible outcome. To Barca, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Sevilla took the lead through Wissam Ben Yedder in the 37th minute, but Antoine Griezmann had Atleti level, by way of a stellar free kick, before halftime.

On the plus side, Atleti’s unbeaten run now stands at 15 league games, while Sevilla haven’t lost in nine.

Real Madrid 0-2 Real Sociedad

As if Barca increasing their lead to five points wasn’t enough, Sunday also saw Real Madrid, who can now be discarded as completely irrelevant in the title race at 10 points back, lose to 15th-place Real Socieded, at home.

Madrid finished the game with just 10 men after Lucas Vazquez picked up his second yellow card in the 61st minute, but Los Blancos had been a goal since Willian Jose’s 3rd-minute penalty. Ruben Pardo made it 2-0 with just seven minutes of regular time left to play.

The result, coupled with Alaves’ victory on Saturday, sees Santiago Solari’s side slip to fifth in the league table.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 0-0 Villarreal

La Liga: Messi’s hat trick paces Barcelona in rout of Levante

AP Photo/Jose Miguel Fernandez de Velasco
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ SATURDAY: Atletico Madrid pull level with Barcelona; Real two points back ]

Levante 0-5 Barcelona

Lionel Messi recorded his 43rd hat trick for Barcelona (all competitions) on Sunday, leading the way in a 5-0 rout away to eighth-place Levante. The five-goal hammering could be seen as a measure of revenge for Barca’s only La Liga defeat last season, a 5-4 defeat to Levante on the penultimate weekend, with the title already wrapped up and sans Messi.

“We had circled this match on the calendar after what happened here last season,” Barca manager Ernesto Valverde said after the game.

While the goals will get most of the headlines, it was Messi’s assist — the first one, to clarify — that was perhaps most impressive. Dribbling down the left side of the penalty area, he drew three defenders into his orbit before threading a chipped cross between two of them and setting up Luis Suarez for a difficult acrobatic finish.

Messi then proceeded to score the game’s next three goals before setting up Gerard Pique for the fifth — his second assist of the day — to play a key role in all five goals.

The victory restores the three-point lead which Barca held coming into the weekend, prior to Atletico Madrid pulling level on points on Saturday.

Sevilla 2-0 Girona

Sevilla reclaimed second place from Atleti (level on points) with a 2-0 victory over Girona. Ever Banega (penalty kick) and Pablo Sarabia scored the goals nine minutes apart early in the second half to extend Pablo Machin’s side’s unbeaten run to seven league games.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 1-3 Real Betis
Huesca 2-2 Villarreal

Barcelona’s Luis Suarez out for 2 weeks due to knee injury

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Luis Suarez will be sidelined for two weeks because of a right knee injury.

The club said on Monday Suarez will undergo stem cell treatment on the injury.

[ RECAP: Burnley 1-2 Newcastle ]

Reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and midfielder Arthur also are nursing injuries.

Cillessen has a small muscle tear in his right leg and will be out from two to three weeks. Arthur has an abductor strain that will keep him from playing at PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Barcelona earlier said midfielder Rafinha will need surgery because of a torn ligament in his right knee and is expected to be out for the rest of the season.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

La Liga: Suarez scores two as Barcelona rally to late win

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MADRID (AP) Luis Suarez netted his second goal of a 3-2 comeback win at Rayo Vallecano in the 90th minute on Saturday, extending his scoring run with Lionel Messi injured.

Rayo was winning the Spanish league match 2-1 until the 87th when substitute Ousmane Dembele drilled in a headed back pass by defender Gerard Pique, who joined the attack.

Suarez then scored his second goal to complete the fightback when he was left unmarked to stab in Sergi Roberto’s cross at the far post.

Barcelona increased its league lead to four points over Atletico Madrid, which drew at Leganes 1-1, and Alaves. Alaves visits Eibar on Sunday.

Suarez opened the scoring at Vallecas Stadium when he tapped in a back pass from Jordi Alba, who was played clear by a long ball from Ivan Rakitic.

But the hosts swung the match in their favor when Jose Pozo scored from outside the area with a shot that went in off the bottom of the upright in the 31st.

After Suarez hit the post, substitute Alvaro Garcia put Rayo ahead in the 57th when he finished off a header by Raul de Tomas that came off the post two minutes after he went on.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde sent on Dembele, Munir El Haddadi and midfielder Arturo Vidal to spark a rally that didn’t arrive until the final minutes.

“The game was very difficult for us, but we knew how to turn it around,” Suarez said. “You can lose leagues at grounds like this one.”

Suarez moved to the top of the league scorer list with nine in 11 rounds.

The Uruguay striker has six goals since Messi broke his right forearm on Oct. 20 against Sevilla, including a hat trick last weekend against Real Madrid. He also set up a goal in a 2-0 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League with Messi out.