Messi double pushes Barcelona top
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Champions Barcelona moved back to the top of the Spanish table with a thumping 4-1 win at Racing Santander on Tuesday to maintain their perfect start to the season.

Argentine Lionel Messi scored a brace, including a brilliant solo goal, making him the league's top-scorer with five goals while Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his record of scoring in every game and now has four to his name. It is a maximum 12 points from four games for Barcelona representing their best start since the 1997/98 season.

Real Madrid can move level on points with Barcelona if they can win at Villarreal tonight. Barcelona blitzed Atletico Madrid at the weekend with four goals inside the first 41 minutes and did the trick again in Santander establishing a three-goal lead by the 26th minute.

A destructive six-minute spell saw Ibrahimovic open the scoring in the 20th minute to maintain his goal a game record. Three minutes later Messi exchanged passes with Xavi before curling into the corner for his fourth goal of the season.

Gerard Pique, getting a reputation for a goalscoring defender, netted the third on 26 minutes after a great touch from Ibrahimovic. It could have been more in a one-sided first-half with Ibrahimovic hitting the post and Messi having a goal ruled out for offside.

Ibrahimovic had to go off in the second half because of a twisted ankle with Pedro enetering the fray in his place. Messi then wriggled past three defenders to score his second goal of the game before Oscar Serrano netted a consolation goal.

Impressive Sevilla
Sevilla notched a third successive win to join Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao on nine points after defeating Real Mallorca 2-0 at home on Tuesday. Mallorca could have gone top of the table with a victory but Sevilla were a cut above and took the spoils thanks to first-half goals from Sebastian Squillaci and Argentine Diego Perotti.

Sevilla welcomed back Brazilian international Luis Fabiano but it was French centre-back Squillaci who surprisingly opened the scoring after 17 minutes. It was a goal made in France with Julien Escude heading the ball across goal for compatriot Squillaci to head in off the underside of the crossbar.

The second goal was created brilliantly by Fabiano and Jesus Navas who crossed for Perotti to head home from close range. Mallorca had a golden chance to make it 2-1 close to half-time but Fernando Varela was foiled by Andres Palop.

Brazilian Adriano almost made it 3-0 minutes after the interval but a last-ditch block denied him a brilliant solo goal. Sevilla climb to third with their third consecutive victory while Mallorca lie sixth after their first defeat of the campaign.

"We were 2-0 up and could have scored two more but then we relaxed," said Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez. "We can't afford to do that because games can last 90 or sometimes 95 minutes and you have to play right until the end."

Real Madrid's expensive line-up face their hardest test so far with a trip to Villarreal tonight as coach Manuel Pellegrini goes back to his old club. "It is a joy to go back to Villarreal," said Pellegrini. "There were five years at a great club and I met some fantastic people. The fans always treated me well during my time there and I hope I get a good reception." Pellegrini has guided Real to three straight victories while his successor at Villarreal Ernesto Valverde has yet to win a game.

Atletico Madrid, another team looking for a top four spot, have also had a nervy start with just one point from nine ahead of tonight's home match against Almeria. Coach Abel Resino got the dreaded vote of confidence from Atletico president Enrique Cerezo this week following the 5-2 humiliation by Barcelona over the weekend.