Ousmane Dembele starred as Barcelona maintained their bid to complete the LaLiga season unbeaten by defeating Villarreal 5-1 at the Nou Camp.
With the domestic double already secured, Ernesto Valverde’s team are looking to become the first Spanish top flight side to not taste defeat over a league campaign and on Wednesday they edged closer to that milestone with two matches remaining.
Dembele produced his best performance since arriving from Borussia Dortmund for £135.5million last summer to finish with two goals having left Villarreal defenders in his wake all night.
Philippe Coutinho, Paulinho and Lionel Messi were also on target to complete the rout of their Europa League-chasing opponents.
With a little help from some unconvincing defending, Barcelona were able to surge 2-0 ahead inside the opening 16 minutes.
Dembele’s electric pace created the problems that led to the opener as he easily glided between a number of would-be tacklers before taking aim from just outside the area.
Keeper Sergio Asenjo should have done better with the shot but instead he pushed the ball to the advancing Coutinho and the Brazilian easily steered home.
Andres Iniesta was the architect of the second as he picked out Lucas Digne who selflessly squared to Paulinho and there was no missing from four yards out.
The outlook for Villarreal grew even bleaker on the stroke of half-time when Iniesta and Messi combined down the left and with the defence exposed, the Argentina playmaker controlled his team-mate’s lofted pass and finished.
Hope of a revival came in the form of a lucky goal that was credited to Nicola Sansone, but which keeper Jasper Cillessen insisted should not have stood.
A shot was taken from the edge of the area and Sansone turned away only for the ball to deflect into the net off what Cillessen claimed was his arm, resulting in a muted celebration from the Italian forward.
Coutinho had a goal ruled out for offside, but the second half had been more promising for the underdogs who defended with greater resolve and showed more intent in attack.
But they came apart with three minutes to go when Ivan Rakitic marauded down the right and swaggered into the box before squaring to Dembele who made no mistake from close range.
And there was still time for Dembele to add a second as Barcelona broke on the counter with their French forward evading all tacklers before chipping the ball home.