Two goals in as many minutes midway through the first-half killed the game as a contest as Ivan Rakitic and Messi netted before Diego Llorente saw a straight red card for a high challenge on Rakitic yesterday.

Messi completed his hat-trick either side of Manucho's consolation for Rayo. Luis Suarez also missed a penalty after Manuel Iturra was also sent-off for the hosts before Arda Turan rounded off the scoring with his first Barca goal.

Barca now lead Atletico Madrid by eight points with Real Madrid a further four points adrift in third with 11 games remaining.

"We played very well and when we are at this level in terms of attitude and intensity, it is very hard for the opponents," said Barca boss Luis Enrique.

Rayo were unbeaten in their seven league games themselves and forced Barca 'keeper Claudio Bravo into a smart early save as the Chilean international flew to his right to turn away Adrian Embarba's drive.

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