Lionel Messi scored twice on Saturday as Barcelona made the best start in the history of the Spanish league with a 5-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.
The leader’s 13 wins and a draw in the opening 14 rounds surpasses Real Madrid’s 12 wins and two draws to begin the 1991-92 campaign.
The milestone, unmatched in 81 previous seasons, came in the first year under coach Tito Vilanova, who took over from Pep Guardiola in offseason after four campaigns as his assistant.
Messi’s 11th double of the season left him one goal shy of Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 for club and country in one calendar year, set in 1972.
The 25-year-old Messi, who could become the first player to win the FIFA world player of the year award four times, has scored 28 times this season, including a league-leading 21 goals.
Barcelona led 3-0 by halftime thanks to goals by Gerard Pique, Messi and Adriano. Cesc Fabregas and Messi scored after halftime.
Barcelona have a 14-point lead over Madrid ahead of the defending champion’s game against Atletico Madrid. Atletico are aiming to break a 13-year winless run against their fierce rival.
Early at Camp Nou, Bilbao did their best to fight for possession with Barcelona and force the hosts’ defenders to start their attacks with Xavi Hernandez and Fabregas well marked in midfield.
With their passing game temporarily held in check, Barcelona turned to a set-piece to break through. Pique pounced on the rebound of Fabregas’ shot from a corner that goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz did well to block to open the scoring in the 22nd.
Messi then struck to double the advantage three minutes later as Xavi met his well-timed run. Messi latched onto the ball, brought Iraizoz to the ground by dribbling across the area, before flipping a shot over the goalkeeper that scrambling defender Fernando Amorebieta couldn’t keep out of the net.
Bilbao’s defensive discipline crumbled, and moments after Messi hit the crossbar, Fabregas threaded a pass through the defence for the streaking Adriano to finish his run down the right flank with a blast over Iraizoz.
The hosts kept pouring it on after halftime as Iniesta found Fabregas unmarked and with time to pick his spot and fire between Iraizoz and the near upright in the 57th. Ibai Gomez got Bilbao’s consolation goal in the 65th.
Messi recorded a double for the fifth straight game five minutes later when he evaded a defender with one touch before curling a strike into the far side of the net.
Real Sociedad came from behind to thrash 10-man Valencia 5-2 and extend their unbeaten run to four games.
Valencia fired Mauricio Pellegrino as coach after the result.
Club president Manuel Llorente says “we have been exchanging opinions and we have decided to fire Mauricio Pellegrino”.
Valencia, who have reached the knockout phase in the Champions League, have not won in seven away games in the Spanish league this season and are languishing in the middle of the standings.
This was Pellegrino’s first season after taking over from Unai Emery.
Elsewhere, Getafe beat Malaga 1-0 for their third consecutive win.
Osasuna edged out visiting Rayo Vallecano 1-0 on Friday.
On Sunday, it’s: Granada vs. Espanyol, Deportivo La Coruna vs. Real Betis; Celta Vigo vs. Levante; and Mallorca vs. Real Zaragoza. Valladolid are at Sevilla on Monday.