Madrid: Lionel Messi took just three minutes to score on his return from injury as Barcelona thrashed Deportivo la Coruna 4-0, but they were upstaged by Yannick Carrasco`s hat-trick in a 7-1 rout for leaders Atletico Madrid over Granada on Saturday.
Barca were already 3-0 up thanks to Luis Suarez and a double from Rafinha when Messi was introduced after nearly a month out with a groin problem just before the hour mark and wasted no time in scoring his ninth goal of the season.
However, Barca still trail Atletico by two points after Carrasco`s treble and Nicolas Gaitan`s first two goals for the club inspired a storming fightback by Diego Simeone`s men after falling behind early on.
Sevilla are second after their first away win in La Liga in 23 games, triumphing 3-2 at Leganes.
Real Madrid can move level with Atletico with victory at Real Betis later.
"It was a complete performance," said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
"We have Leo back and it took him no time to be back in top form."
Barca have traditionally struggled on weekends following international breaks and fell to a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Alaves on their return to action in September.
However, they had to wait just 21 minutes to open the scoring when Rafinha exchanged a one-two with Suarez before drilling a low shot that had too much power for German Lux.
Rafinha bundled home a second 15 minutes later after Lux had saved Gerard Pique`s initial effort.
Suarez moved level with Antoine Griezmann as La Liga`s top scorer with six this season when he brilliantly turned away from the Deportivo defence when receiving Neymar`s through ball before slotting home the third.
The Uruguayan then smacked the post himself on the volley before he was replaced by Paco Alcacer at half-time to keep him fresh for the visit of City on Wednesday.
Messi was next to be introduced from the bench and took just three touches to find the net when he flicked another Neymar assist over the helpless Lux.
Deportivo`s day was rounded off by a red card for Laure 25 minutes from time when for elbowing Neymar in the face.Granada travelled to the Vicente Calderon without a win this season, but threatened a huge shock when Isaac Cuenca`s sensational volley from outside the area saw Atletico concede for just the third time this season.
Carrasco turned the game around before half-time thanks in part to some poor goalkeeping from Guillermo Ochoa.
However, the Mexican was faultless as Carrasco completed his first career hat-trick with a thumping finish from Antoine Griezmann`s fine cut-back on the hour mark.
Gaitan had only been on the pitch a minute before he added a fourth and then fired in his second nine minutes from time at Ochoa`s near post.
And Carrasco teed up two more for Angel Correa and Tiago in the final five minutes as Atletico made light of a dependence on Griezmann for goals so far this season.
Sevilla host Atletico next weekend in a top of the table clash after ending a 17-month wait for an away league win at Leganes.
Franco Vazquez`s opener and a second from the impressive Samir Nasri just before the hour mark put Jorge Sampaoli`s men well on course to end that barren run.
However, their defensive frailties looked set to cost them victory once more as Leganes fought back with two goals in three minutes through David Timor and Alexander Szymanowski.
Pablo Sarabia proved the match winner off the bench, though, when he curled home from outside the area his third goal in just seven La Liga games since joining from Getafe.