Barcelona sent a strong message to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid on Wednesday, demolishing Deportivo La Coruna 8-0 to end a four-game winless streak and keep its lead in the Spanish league.
Luis Suarez scored four goals and set up three others to help Barcelona stop its freefall and show its determination to win the league for a second year in a row despite recent struggles.
Lionel Messi, Neymar, Mark Bartra and Ivan Rakitic also scored for the Catalan club at the Riazor Stadium in La Coruna.
The much-needed win gave Barcelona 79 points to keep it ahead of Atletico Madrid, which defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 with a 38th-minute goal by striker Fernando Torres for its eighth win in nine league games.
Atletico also reached 79 points but it trails Barcelona on tiebreakers.
Real Madrid stayed one point behind Barcelona and Atletico, with four rounds to go after a 3-0 win over Villarreal. Karim Benzema opened the scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the 41st, Lucas Vazquez added a second in the 69th and Luka Modric rounded off in the 76th.
“The team was phenomenal from the first minute until the last,” said Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, whose team has won eight league games in a row.
Cristiano Ronaldo left the match just before the final whistle with an apparent right-leg muscle injury. The club said he would undergo tests as a precaution on Thursday but it did not appear to be a serious problem.
Barcelona’s big lead had evaporated after a draw and three consecutive losses in the league, including one against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. The team’s turmoil was compounded by elimination by Atletico in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
“We played a great game and were very effective, creating infinite options,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We made sure we took our early chances. From there on, everything was on a roll. It was a spectacular result for us.”
The goalfest answered critics who doubted whether Barcelona would be able to overcome its recent struggles and remain in contention for a second consecutive league title.
Luis Enrique’s team had been cruising in first place, with a nine-point lead over Atletico and a 12-point advantage over Real Madrid. But it all collapsed quickly after a 2-2 draw at Villarreal and consecutive losses to Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia, the last one also at the Camp Nou. The defeat to Madrid halted the team’s record 39-game unbeaten streak.
Playing a difficult away game at the Riazor stadium and facing a team it had struggled against recently, fans feared another setback on Wednesday. Barcelona hadn’t beaten Deportivo in two games, including at the Camp Nou earlier this season when it squandered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw.
But it didn’t take long for the Catalan club to start turning things around.
Suarez opened the scoring in the 11th and added his other goals in the 24th, 53rd and 64th minutes. Rakitic got on the board in the 47th, Messi in the 73rd, Bartra in the 79th and Neymar in the 81st to end his five-game scoreless streak.
Suarez set up the goals by Rakitic, Messi and Neymar. The Uruguayan took his league tally to 30 goals, one less than Ronaldo. It was the second time this season he netted four goals in a game.
Suarez has netted 49 goals in 48 matches this season, surpassing the 47 goals that former Brazil striker Ronaldo had scored in the 1996-97 season. Messi has scored more than that in five seasons.
“The most important thing is that the goals have served to help achieve a vital win, given that we were coming off the back of a bad run,” Suarez said. “We will keep trying to reach our objectives. I am sure that the work will pay off.”
Deportivo, winless in four games, dropped to 14th place in the 20-team standings, eight points from relegation zone.
Atletico kept pace with Barcelona with the hard-fought win over fifth-place Athletic in Bilbao, when Torres’s header was enough to give Diego Simeone’s team its fourth straight league victory.
“We made a great effort,” Simeone said. “You cannot end up winning without the effort we have made, especially in the second half, when Athletic intensified the pressure more than in the first.”
Torres has scored a goal in his last five consecutive games.
The bad news for Atletico was that veteran defender Diego Godin had to be substituted in the 11th minute because of a right leg muscle injury.
Athletic, which had won two games in a row, missed a chance to move closer to fourth-place Villarreal, remaining six points back with four games left.