Madrid (AFP) – Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were all on target as Barcelona beat Villarreal 4-1 to heap the pressure on Real Madrid, who travel to Granada later on Saturday.
Victory moved Barca three points clear of Madrid at the top of La Liga, but Real have four games left to the Catalans’ two.
Barca’s ‘MSN’ front three have now scored a combined 102 goals this season and the hosts had too much firepower for a Villarreal side that remains six points off the top four in fifth.
Earlier, third-placed Atletico Madrid guaranteed their place in the top four with a 1-0 win over Eibar.
With Real enjoying a favourable run-in as they aim to complete a La Liga and Champions League double for the first time since 1957-58, Barca know any further slip-up will likely be fatal to their hopes of a third successive title.
Barca got off to the perfect start when Neymar took advantage of a blocked shot from Messi to prod home the opener from close range after 21 minutes.
However, Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu continued his brilliant form to bring the visitors levels just 11 minutes later when he streaked clear of Gerard Pique before slotting home his seventh goal in six games.
Both sides then passed up big chances to go in front in a wildly open game as Pique just couldn’t reach Messi’s cross and Roberto Soldado headed over at the other end.
Barca got a slice of luck to regain the lead just before the break as Messi’s effort from the edge of the area deflected beyond Andres Fernandez for the Argentine’s 50th goal of the season and to bring up a combined 100 for he, Suarez and Neymar for the campaign.
Suarez took that tally to 101 and killed the game off as a contest when he turned Jaume Costa and fired low and hard past Fernandez.
Costa was also the man at fault as he was harshly adjudged to have handled inside his own box after a sensational piece of skill from Neymar eight minutes from time.
And Messi chipped the resulting penalty down the middle of the goal to round off the scoring.
Atletico need just one more point to secure third ahead of Sevilla as they bounced back from the disappointment of losing the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid 3-0 thanks to Saul Niguez’s winner 21 minutes from time.
And Atletico coach Diego Simeone encouraged his side to believe they can pull off a spectacular comeback in the second leg against their local rivals.
“On Wednesday we have a very difficult game. For some impossible, but not for us,” he said.
At the other end of the table Sporting Gijon kept their hopes of staying up alive with a 1-0 win over Las Palmas.
Carlos Carmona got the only goal midway through the second half to move Sporting to within three points of Leganes with two games remaining.
<figure><figcaption>Barcelona's Lionel Messi (C) celebrates a goal with teammates Luis Suarez (R) and Neymar during their Spanish league football match against Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 6, 2017 <span>Copyright AFP LLUIS GENE</span> </figcaption><img src="https://desiforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/37364b2458144970320f3fe87f0c06f7c319d4e4.jpg" width="768" height="512"><figcaption>Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez (R) celebrates after scoring during their Spanish league football match against Eibar at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on May 6, 2017 <span>Copyright AFP JAVIER SORIANO</span> </figcaption></figure>