Madrid: Lionel Messi scored a hat trick in Barcelona`s record 8-0 rout of Almeria, while Cristiano Ronaldo answered with three goals of his own as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 5-1 to stay top of the Spanish league ahead of their upcoming meeting.
Messi continued his impressive recent scoring spree to become only the fourth Barcelona scorer to go over 100 Spanish league goals after starting the triumph with his 17th-minute opener yesterday.
He added another in the 37th before pouncing on a loose ball in the 67th for his 13th of the season and 14th goal in eight games in all competitions.
Substitute Bojan Krkic scored twice, while Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez also netted for the Spanish champion. Santiago Acasiete added an own goal as Barcelona matched its - and the league`s - best ever away-win from 51 years ago.
Almeria coach Juan Manuel Lillo was fired right after the game at Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium.
With coach Jose Mourinho watching on from the Santiago Bernabeu stands as he served out a two-game ban, Ronaldo led Madrid after Angel Di Maria slid a pass to Gonzalo Higuain to open for the hosts in the 19th minute.
Mesut Oezil tapped a long pass into the path of the Portugal forward to fire past goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and make it 2-0 after half an hour. Fernando Llorente, who had two chances kept out including an impressive individual effort early on, volleyed a loose ball home from inside the box for the Basque side just before the break. It was the Spain striker`s ninth of the season to trail only Ronaldo and Messi.
But Sergio Ramos restored the two-goal lead with a 57th-minute penalty earned by Di Maria then Ronaldo surprised Iraizoz with a dipping free kick from over 30 meters out.
Ronaldo capped Madrid`s resounding win with an injury-time penalty for his league-leading 14th goal.
Madrid tops the standings with 32 points and Barcelona has 31 going into their "clasico" at the Camp Nou on November 29, with the pair facing Champions League matches beforehand.
"Let`s see if Barcelona can score eight goals next Monday," Ronaldo said.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola left Gerard Pique on the bench with the Spain defender a yellow card away from suspension ahead of the Madrid match. But it hardly mattered as Barcelona`s offense pulverized its 18th-place opponent.
"Every time we got to goal we scored, unlike some other days," Guardiola said. "It`s hard to say much after such a result. I just want to congratulate the team because they were so effective."
Messi capped a well-worked combination with David Villa by firing past goalkeeper Diego Alves for the opener.
Iniesta jumped on an Almeria defensive error to fire past Diego Alves into the roof of goal two minutes later before Acasiete poked Maxwell`s pass home in the 27th.
Pedro beat Diego Alves to a long ball to fire into an open goal in the 35th. The Spain forward then found Messi darting into the box and although the Brazilian `keeper saved the right-footed shot, Messi hesitated long enough to receive the rebound and score with his left foot.
Bojan came in for Pedro and held off two defenders before flicking over Diego Alves in the 63rd to make it 6-0.
Messi`s easiest was his last after Diego Alves spilled the rebound from Villa`s hard shot for league goal No. 101 with the Catalan club.
Bojan capped the record rout - Almeria`s previous worst defeat was a 6-0 loss at Barcelona - after receiving from Messi in the 73rd. Barcelona matched its previous best away result - an 8-0 win at Las Palmas in 1959 - to tie the biggest league away win ever.
"We were ridiculous," Almeria president Alfonso Garcia Gabarron said just before firing Lillo.
Earlier, Villarreal rallied for a 1-1 draw against Valencia to stay three points ahead of its regional rival in third place with 24 points.
At Villarreal, Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi reached Bruno Soriano`s guided cross in the 73rd minute to push it past Valencia goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya for his eighth goal of the season.
Aritz Aduritz had put Valencia ahead in the 21st at El Madrigal Stadium, where Villarreal`s perfect record ended after six games. The Basque striker redirected Joaquin Sanchez`s sharp centering pass from along the goalline off defender Gonzalo Rodriguez to get past goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Midfielder Marcos Senna equalled Rodolfo Arruabarrena`s record mark of 219 appearances for the "Yellow Submarine." Both teams suffered injury worries as Spain defender Capdevila limped off with an ankle injury and Valencia center back David Navarro also exited in the second half.
Valencia played with 10 men after Marius Stankevicius was sent off in the 85th for a second booking.