Lionel Messi hit four goals to inspire Barcelona to a 5-1 victory over Valencia, but the champions still remain 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Messi, playing his 200th game for the club, took his league goals tally to 27 for the season and 42 in all competitions although third-placed Valencia had stunned the Spanish and European champions by taking a shock early lead.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola insisted that they do not deserve to be so far off the pace in the title chase. "With the football we have played we don't deserve to be so far behind but our challenge now is to keep the title race open," he said.The pressure was on the Catalan side after defeat last weekend away to Osasuna and they got off to a poor start with Pablo Piatti giving Valencia the lead after nine minutes.
Martin Montoya, in the side with Dani Alves suspended, and Gerard Pique left Piatti unmarked and keeper Victor Valdes came and failed to reach a Sofiane Feghouli cross allowing the diminutive striker to tuck the ball in.
The home fans were becoming restless but Messi responded once again when his side needed him most with two goals in five minutes.