Valencia took a surprise lead through Pablo Piatti in the ninth minute last night, but Barca’s response was composed and clinical as they tore the visiting defence to shreds, producing chance after chance as Messi scored twice before half-time and then twice more in the final 15 minutes.
He then found time to help set up Xavi Hernandez for a fifth in injury time. The 5-1 win leaves Barca 10 points adrift of Primera Division leaders Real Madrid – who eased to a 4-0 victory over 10-man Racing Santander on Saturday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo headed Madrid into an early lead before Racing had defender Domingo Cisma sent off just before half-time for a second yellow card. Karim Benzema hit a brace and Angel Di Maria added another to put the seal on a 20th win in 23 league matches.
Elsewhere, a stunning four-minute scoring spree midway through the second-half helped Athletic Bilbao down fellow Champions League hopefuls Malaga 3-0 at San Mames.
Substitute Fernando Amorebieta put the home side ahead in the 58th minute and Mikel San Jose and Gaizka Toquero quickly added further goals to settle the contest.
Mallorca ended Villarreal’s recent revival in spectacular style with a 4-0 home win. Victor Casadesus (2), Jose Luis Marti and Jose Nunes got the goals.
In Italy, AC Milan capped a superb week yesterday with a win at Cesena that sees them replace Juventus at the top of the Serie A.
Milan won with goals from debutant Sulley Muntari, Urby Emanuelson and Robinho. Daniel Pudli got second-bottom Cesena’s reply.
The victory lifts Milan a point clear of Juve, who provisionally took over top spot with a 3-1 win over Catania on Saturday night, although the Turin club still have a game in hand. Palermo annihilated a weakened Lazio side 5-1.
Edgar Barreto, Massimo Donati and Matias Silvestre scored before the break and Igor Budan and captain Fabrizio Miccoli wrapped up the win in the second half.
Libor Kozak’s late goal was of little consolation to Lazio.
Udinese were unable to capitalise, with a goalless draw at home to Cagliari meaning they remain fourth.
Roma ended Parma’s five-game unbeaten run to climb to fifth, with Fabio Borini’s 26th minute goal settling the contest.
In Germany Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored twice as Schalke kept pace with the pack of leaders in the Bundesliga thanks to a convincing 4-0 home victory over Wolfsburg.
Raul gave Schalke the lead after just 10 minutes and his fellow former Real Madrid striker Huntelaar made it 2-0 after 15 minutes. Joel Matip then ended any doubts as he increased the lead to 3-0 in the 49th minute before Huntelaar, after earlier failing to convert a penalty, netted his second in the 72nd minute.
Schalke’s win lifted them to 44 points — one behind third-placed Bayern Munich and still five points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund.
In yesterday’s other match, Hannover kept themselves firmly in the hunt for the European spots with a 4-2 home win over Stuttgart.
Hannover stormed into a 4-0 lead through goals from Karim Haggui, Mame Biram Diouf, Christian Pander and Lars Stindl , and although Stuttgart threatened to set up a grandstand finish with replies from Martin Harnik and Shinji Okazaki, they could not get any closer.
In France, substitute Guillaume Hoarau struck two minutes from time to salvage a 2-2 home draw for Ligue 1 leaders Paris St Germain in an enthralling top-of-the-table clash with confident Montpellier at Parc des Princes.
John Utaka’s header looked to have sealed a famous away win for Montpellier but France striker Hoarau tapped in after a good move to send the home fans delirious.
Montpellier, top scorers in Ligue 1 this term with 47 goals, have surprised most pundits by lasting the course until February and deserved to at least stay a point behind the leaders after 24 games of the 38-match season.
Defender Alex blasted PSG into an undeserved lead with a swerving free kick after 41 minutes but the visitors hit back on the stroke of half-time through Younes Belhanda as a team who finished way down in 14th last season showed immense character.