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PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ/ÁLEX CAPARRÓS-FCB

This time the international break had no effect on FC Barcelona as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Racing Santander to hold onto top spot in the Liga table. They did so by staying faithful to their usual system, despite nine of the starting eleven having played international fixtures this week. Leo Messi was the star once again, scoring the first and third goals of the game, with Xavi adding another in between as the his side dominated the Cantabrians from start to finish. The performance was an ideal confidence booster ahead of two more important games at the Camp Nou against Viktoria Plzeň and Sevilla.

Messi marvel

For the first time this season, Guardiola started a match without either Busquets or Mascherano. Puyol and Piqué started in the centre of defence, although the latter withdrew injured shortly after kickoff, while Thiago acted as the linkman between defence and midfield. The football flowed as brilliantly as ever, with absolutely no sign of tiredness among the many internationals. The first goal came after a delightful combination play involving Iniesta and Messi. The Argentinian, with just four touches of the ball, left Bernardo and Toño standing before scoring an absolute peach of a goal. It also meant he has now beaten Kubala’s long standing goal scoring record.

Xavi gets second

The first half was a constant onslaught on the Racing goal. It was only a matter of time before FCB scored again, and that happened on the half hour, when Xavi headed home a Pedro cross from the left. Puyol and Villa, twice, also had chances to extend the lead against a Racing side that had certainly come to play football, but Hector Cuper’s rapid-paced style only played right into the hands of the home side.

More from Messi

Nothing changed after the break. Barça continued to dominate possession and generate chance after chance. The pace may have eased off slightly, but it was still ideal for the Catalans, who appreciated the drop in intensity due to possible fatigue in the wake of so much travelling over the last week. But there was still another goal to come, and that started with Andrés Iniesta going on a terrific run and then striking the ball onto the post, where Messi was ready to cannon the rebound into the net.

Rest for Iniesta and Pedro

The 3-0 scoreline satisfied Guardiola that the team had done its job, and Iniesta, who was playing his first game since getting injured against AC Milan and Pedro, who played for Spain on Tuesday against Scotland, were both brought off early. Keita and Adriano took their place in a game that almost ended with an amazing overhead goal from Abidal. You just never know what to expect from Barça, but it’s almost always amazing! The magic continues…

LOS GOLES

1-0, Messi (min 11)
2-0, Xavi (min 27)
3-0, Messi (min 68)

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