Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar all struck as Barcelona leapfrogged Real Madrid to the top of La Liga with a 6-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Madrid trail their title rivals by two points but have two games in hand and can reclaim top spot when Las Palmas visit the Santiago Bernabeu later on Wednesday.

Suarez and Messi were afforded an early night as they were both substituted in the second half with Barca`s minds already turning to their Champions League rescue mission from 4-0 down against Paris Saint-Germain in a week`s time.

Boss Luis Enrique continued his experiment with a 3-4-3 formation in an attempt to rediscover the Catalans` top form after their thrashing in Paris.

However, it was the talent of the “MSN” front three allied to some awful Sporting defending that ensured an easy night for Barca despite some defensive problems of their own.

Messi netted his 36th goal in as many games this season in unusual fashion on his 500th start for the club as he looped a header over Sporting `keeper Ivan Cuellar after Javier Mascherano`s long ball caught the Sporting defence napping after just nine minutes.

Barca doubled their advantage two minutes later as Suarez was played in by a wonderful through ball by Neymar and Juan Rodriguez`s mishit turned the Uruguayan`s effort from a narrow angle into his own net.

The visitors, who remain rooted in the relegation zone, were handed a brief lifeline when Carlos Castro tapped into an empty net after Sergio Alvarez`s initial effort came back off the post.

However, there was no time for any Barca doubts to seep in as a poor defensive header from Jean-Sylvain Babin fell kindly for Suarez to file into the top corner on the volley.

Both sides could have had more goals before half-time as Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a fine stop to deny Burgui — who constantly exposed the right side of the Barca defence — before Cuellar saved from Neymar at the end of a fine individual run.

Paco Alcacer was given a rare chance for the second half as he replaced Suarez and took just four minutes to make it 4-1 when he slotted home from Messi`s pass.

Messi also hit the bar from a trademark free-kick before the five-time World Player of the Year was rested for the final half hour as he was replaced by Andre Gomes.

Neymar took advantage of the Argentine`s absence to take over free-kick duty and he produced a stunning strike of his own into the top corner for his first La Liga goal at the Camp Nou this season.

Ivan Rakitic completed the scoring when he lashed into the roof of the net three minutes from time.

Elsewhere, sixth-placed Villarreal moved to within three points of the top four with a comfortable 4-1 win at rock-bottom Osasuna.

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