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Messi hat-trick fires Barca, Atletico beaten

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Lionel Messi marked his 300th La Liga appearance with his 31st Barcelona hat-trick as the Catalans moved within a point of Real Madrid at the top of the table with a 5-0 win over Levante.

However, champions Atletico Madrid remain seven points off the top in third after losing 2-0 at Celta Vigo.

Barca have now won 11 straight matches in all competitions and never looked in danger despite coach Luis Enrique making eight changes from the side that beat Villarreal in the Copa del Rey in midweek.

Messi teed up Neymar to open the scoring early on and then took over scoring duties himself to push out his all-time La Liga tally to 269 goals.

Yet, even the Argentine was upstaged by a stunning overhead kick from substitute Luis Suarez to round off the scoring.

Victory tied Pep Guardiola’s best ever run of consecutive wins during his hugely successful four-year spell in charge at the Camp Nou.

But Enrique insisted it is winning at the season’s end which matters most.

“Records are obviously positive, but they don’t interest me,” he said.

“The players aren’t overly euphoric because they know how hard it is to win titles.

“If the fans are euphoric then great. We need to be optimistic, but it isn’t important how many games we have won. What counts is if they help us to win trophies.”

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