Messi double puts Barca within reach of title

Milan: Barcelona took another big stride towards a second-straight La Liga triumph when top scorer Lionel Messi struck twice in the leaders` 4-1 home win over relegation battling Tenerife.

Carles Puyol`s howler gifted the visitors an equaliser after Argentina forward Messi had put Barca ahead in the 17th minute before Bojan Krkic and substitute Pedro netted with clinical second-half strikes.

Messi grabbed a fourth in added time at a rain-lashed Nou Camp when he controlled a Daniel Alves pass and lifted the ball over Tenerife goalkeeper Sergio Aragoneses for his 31st league goal of the campaign.

With two matches left, Barca have a La Liga record 93 points, four clear of second-placed Real Madrid, who have a game in hand and can cut the gap back to one with a win at Champions League hopefuls Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Barca`s points total from 36 matches surpasses the 92 accumulated by Real under Fabio Capello in the 1996-97 season when there were 22 teams rather than 20.

"We have 93 points and I don`t even believe it myself," coach Pep Guardiola said at a news conference.

"We will have to win in Sevilla if we want to be champions," the 39-year-old added. "It`s the 17th consecutive match that we have played with a gap of only three or four days. The effort is incredible."

Barca`s final two games are away to fifth-placed Sevilla and home to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid, while Real play Athletic Bilbao, who are fighting for a Europa League spot, at home and struggling Malaga away.

Bureau Report

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