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In their final home game of the season on Sunday, FC Barcelona treated the fans to an enthralling afternoon. With the team inching ever closer to wrapping up the 2015/16 La Liga title and facing cross-town rivals RCD Espanyol in a late-season derby certified as a must-win for both sides, the blaugrana eleven gave the Camp Nou crowd an hour and a half of total football. The defence swarmed, the passing was crisp, and the trident was lethal.
When the final whistle blew FC Barcelona had achieved a 5–0 victory, putting them one win from the championship. Despite holding a minuscule lead over Atlético Madrid in the La Liga standings, Barça came into the game controlling their own destiny. And they still do.
A goose-bump inducing pre-game tribute to recently passed away PA announcer Manel Vich set the stage as both teams stood shoulder to shoulder accompanied by Pau Casals’ El Cant dels Ocells.
Luis Suárez led the blaugrana onslaught with a pair of second-half goals, bringing him to the brink of the Pichichi Trophy and the European Golden Shoe.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Barça in the early going and Rafinha and Neymar added late goals as they have now outscored their opponents by 21–0 in their last four games.
Messi gave Barça a 1–0 lead in the 8th minute after being taken down by Espanyol full-back Víctor Álvarez. Faced with a mouth-watering, front and centre free kick from 22 metres, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner curled the ball over Espanyol’s six-man wall and into the upper-right corner.
Suárez doubled Barça’s lead in the 52nd when an Espanyol turnover in their own end fell to the feet of Dani Alves and the Brazilian full back quickly dished to Messi, who in turn found Suárez. The Uruguayan pulled the trigger and fired past Pau López and into the net.
Then, just minutes later, Suárez added to his tally by heading in from just shy of the penalty spot. Neymar got the assist with a precision cross stemming from a corner kick.
With a 3–0 lead and just a quarter-hour having ticked by in the second half, the rout was on.
In the 74th, Rafinha — who had just come on for Ivan Rakitic — pounced on an error by López to slot in from the edge of the six-yard box and make it a 4–0 game.
Neymar joined the act in the 83rd minute when he was left wide open on the left side of the Espanyol penalty area and, following an assist from Suárez, found the net easily to run the lead to 5–0.
The only thing standing between FCB and a new piece of hardware is next Saturday's tête-à-tête with Granada, who avoided relegation on Sunday with a rout of their own in a 4–1 thumping of Sevilla.
All of La Liga's Week 37 fixtures were played simultaneously at 5.00pm CET on Sunday.
Barça's closest pursuers, Atlético Madrid, lost at Levante to fall out of the title chase, while Real Madrid beat Valencia to leapfrog Atlético in the table and stay alive, just one point behind leaders Barça.
But with Granada having acheived their goal and, therefore, with little to play for next week, all the while Barça remain in control of their own destiny, Luis Enrique and his players can almost grasp the league title. One more win and it'll be theirs.
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