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Leo Messi scores another hat trick against Granada / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

If Harry Houdini had reincarnated as a professional footballer, he would have come back as Lionel Messi. On a beautiful, unseasonably warm Mediterranean afternoon at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s Argentinian wonder took centre stage once again, wowing the crowd with a hat-trick to lead the Catalans to a captivating 4–0 victory over Granada in their first home game of the New Year in La Liga.

Neymar Jr. added Barça’s fourth and final goal of the day seven minutes from time, providing a late curtain call.

The triumph provisionally moves the Catalans to the top of the La Liga table pending the outcome of first-place Atlético de Madrid’s match on Sunday evening. FCB, nevertheless, still have a game in hand stemming from a scheduling conflict with last month’s FIFA Club World Cup.

For Messi, Saturday’s performance was a brilliant dress rehearsal for Monday’s Ballon d’Or award ceremony, when it is widely expected that he will hoist the trophy for the fifth time in his career.

The one-man show got started in the ninth minute when Messi and Arda Turan — making his first La Liga start for FC Barcelona — combined on a long give and go, with Messi slicing through the Granada defence unmarked and redirecting past goalkeeper Andrés Fernández for the early 1–0 lead.

Messi’s second goal came just five minutes later, in the 14th, this time courtesy of Luis Suárez. In classic trident fashion, Neymar, Suárez and Messi pulled off a rapid-fire combination that zigzagged through the Granada defence, with Messi finishing sublimely from a tight angle.

In the 59th minute, Messi added his third of the day by finishing a rebound following a shot by Neymar from close range that caromed off the post.

Neymar closed out the scoring in the 83rd on a feed from Suárez that Messi — conscious of being caught offsides — let roll by for the onside Neymar to clean up. The Brazilian settled and fired top shelf, giving the 70,720 people on hand one more reason to roar.

FC Barcelona have now won all 22 matches versus Granada at Camp Nou all-time. The victory is also Barça’s ninth in their last ten home games in La Liga this season.

Granada, meanwhile, remain stuck on 17 points and, depending on the rest of this weekend’s results, could fall back into the relegation zone.


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