Barcelona equal La Liga record of 38 games without defeat

That would draw them level with the 38-game unbeaten streak posted by Real Sociedad between 1979 and 1980, a run which remains a league record until this day.

The home side eased off in the second half and allowed former Liverpool winger, Nabil El Zhar, to pull one back.

Barcelona equaled the Spanish top flight record of 38 successive games without defeat following their 3-1 La Liga win over Leganes on Saturday.

After being picked out by Philippe Coutinho, Messi then doubled the score-line, holding off two defenders before finding the net with a trademark finish, which he nearly passed into the goal.

Barca, who are seven games from an unbeaten La Liga season, are now 12 points above Atletico Madrid.

Valverde named a strong side despite having a Champions League quarter-final, second leg on Tuesday at Roma, with Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho all starting.

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Valverde says he is not looking to rest Lionel Messi against Leganes.

After his team-mate's big miss, Messi took over the show.

But, again, as was the case in the opening 45 minutes, Messi was on hand to rescue his striker's misfortune in front of goal. Coutinho raced infield and delivered an inch-perfect pass which the Argentina worldwide took in his stride while holding off two defenders before sending a left-footed strike into the bottom corner from 15 yards. In each one of theses games, except against Girona, Barca turned their fortunes around with the help of goals scored in the second half, while 49 of the team's 79 goals in the campaign have come after halftime. Rakitic has been able to adapt to a holding midfield role when usual anchor Sergio Busquets has been absent, while Sergi Roberto has proved as comfortable at right back as in midfield.

La Liga top scorer Lionel Messi struck a hat-trick for the runaway leaders.

But Leganes could not make the most of their goal, and with three minutes to go Ousmane Dembele found Messi who chested the ball down then clipped it over the advancing Cuellar, with mercurial style.

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