Barcelona rose to second in LaLiga after a dominant 2-0 defeat of fourth-placed Sevilla.
Ousmane Dembele fired Barcelona ahead in the first half before Lionel Messi wrapped up victory five minutes from time to sit two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid – who have two games in hand.
Barca were on the front foot from the first whistle, dominating early play with quick touches and the lion’s share of possession.
Those efforts produced the first real chance of the encounter in the 22nd minute when Dembele surged forward and cut inside before producing a left-footed shot that was blocked by Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
Seven minutes later, Dembele struck again, this time hitting the mark after picking up a Messi pass and jinking past two defenders before driving a shot through Bounou’s legs and into the far corner.
Barca pushed forward for a second goal in the 33rd minute with Frenkie De Jong finding Messi in the box but Bounou managed to block the visiting captain’s shot.
Sevilla’s first chance of the game then came in the 51st minute when Jesus Navas embarked on a run before cutting inside and shooting towards the near post, but Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen saved down low.
Clement Lenglet thought he put his side 2-0 up when heading home a Messi free kick in the 69th minute, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.
A golden opportunity for Sevilla was denied when Youssef En-Nesyri thought he grabbed an equaliser after 80 minutes, but the referee deemed the ball to have been handled in the build-up and the effort was disallowed.
In the 85th minute, Messi doubled Barcelona’s lead after linking up with Ilaix Moriba on the left before tapping in beyond the reach of Bounou to secure his side’s victory.
The two sides will clash again on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp, with Ronald Koeman’s side tasked with overturning a 2-0 goal deficit.