Messi double does the trick for Barcelona
A second half Lionel Messi double was enough to see Barcelona over Espanyol at the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon in LaLiga.
Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol: match report
Lionel Messi scored twice to earn Barcelona a 2-0 derby win over Espanyol and send them 13 points clear at the top of La Liga on Saturday.
With second-placed Atletico Madrid travelling to Alaves later in the day, the champions took advantage of the chance to extend their lead.
A dull match was decided by Barcelona's number 10, who lofted home a free kick after 71 minutes and slotted in from substitute Malcom's cross towards the end.
Messi, the division's top scorer with 31 goals, suffered criticism in his native Argentina after withdrawing from a friendly against Morocco because of a groin problem, but was hailed by Barcelona fans after taking them one step closer to retaining the title.
Barcelona vs Espanyol live online: updates and commentary
Barcelona vs Espanyol live online: preview
The Catalan derby rarely needs much to spice it up but Gerard Piqué's appearance on late night television in Spain has added plenty. His comments about having more assets than the size of Espanyol's budget didn't go down well and Barça's opponents on Saturday released a statement to defend themselves against the comments. Espanyol's manager, Rubi, also said there are more important values in sport than money and Ernesto Valverde also defended his defender over some of the criticism he recieved. Barça have practically wrapped up the league title but Espanyol have plenty to play for as they battle relegation. Regardless of what's on offer, this game will have plenty of needle after Piqué divisive comments.
Barcelona welcome their international stars back after the break and that should include Lionel Messi, who missed Argentina's game against Morocco during the week after playing against Venezuela at the Wanda and complaining about a groin issue. Luis Suarez, along with Messi, trained on Wednesday and should be ready for action. They'll be glad to have their hitman too as he has scored 12 in nine against their rivals. Dembele is out with a hamstring injury and Rafinha is another long-term absentee.
Espanyol are not free from relegation but they are nine points off the drop after a mini-resurgance. They have lost just once in seven and while four of those were draws, they are still picking up points unlike plenty of their relegation rivals. They signed Wu Lei in the January transfer market and he has helped in attack and there will be plenty of attention from Asia in this game given he is the Chinese Super League history with 102 goals. They can not count on Sergi Darder and Didac Vila through suspension while David Lopez and Pablo Piatti remain out long term and Ferreyra is also out with a hamstring injury.