FC Barcelona followed up their 4-0 win in midweek against Rayo Vallecano with another attacking masterclass against Levante, defeating Juan Ignacio Martínez's side by 5-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
With Levante sitting in fourth place in the La Liga table, only five points adrift of Barcelona prior to kick-off, one would have expected a fairly well-contested affair but Pep Guardiola's side were not in the mood to drop any more valuable points in the title race and produced a devastating display of attacking football to run out comprehensive winners.
Following his comical fifth yellow card of the season for time-wasting on Tuesday, defender Gerard Piqué was suspended, allowing him to be available for next week's 'Clásico', meaning that Javier Mascherano slotted in alongside Carles Puyol in the heart of defence whilst Dani Alves was given a breather and Isaac Cuenca was preferred to Pedro and David Villa in attack.
Cesc Fàbregas was another face welcomed into the starting line-up and the Spanish international opened the scoring in just the third minute with a deft finish. Messi's pass was exquisitely flicked by Iniesta into the path of Fàbregas who fired into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Arouna Kone nearly became the first opposition player to score at the Camp Nou in the league but his looping header was well held by Victor Valdés. Levante were clearly rattled by the early goal but they were not prepared to sit back and invite Barcelona on to them and their forward trio caused a few defensive problems with their pace and clever movement.
However, Levante were struggling to deal with the industry of Barcelona's frontline and Lionel Messi was twice denied from extending the lead. His first effort came after a dazzling run just inside Levante's half and after evading two defenders, Juan García made a crucial block to divert his shot past the post. Gustavo Munúa was then on hand to deny the Argentine's speculative freekick and Puyol really should have converted the rebound after the ball kindly fell in his path but could not quite sort out his feet.
However, Barcelona did score from a set-piece situation in the 33rd minute when Fàbregas claimed his second of the game. Xavi whipped in an inviting freekick that was glanced in by the head of Fàbregas for his seventh league goal of the season, putting Barça firmly in control of the match.
Isaac Cuenca made it 3-0 only four minutes later when he coolly slotted home to round off a wonderful team move. Messi was instrumental as ever, running at the Levante defence and dragging defenders towards him before slipping a pass to Iniesta on the edge on the box; Iniesta then nonchalantly spread the ball into the path of the onrushing youngster who finessed it into the far corner of the net with the ease and confidence of an experienced goalscorer. It was a joy to behold a team in such expressive, free-flowing fashion and Levante were desperate to hear the half-time whistle, completely helpless to Barcelona's wizadry.
However, just before the break Levante had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back when Kone burst clear of the Blaugranes' defence following a devastating counter-attack but his shot was struck into the legs of Valdés with the goal gaping. Lady luck was shining on the Spanish goalkeeper who had not conceded a goal in nine home league matches.
And the Barça shotstopper had to be at his best minutes into second half when he produced a wonderful reflex save to prevent Asier Del Horno. Javi Venta whipped in a cross after a short corner and the former Chelsea defender rose highest but saw his powerful effort fingertipped around the post.
A Barcelona rout was hardly complete without their little magician getting on the scoresheet and sure enough, Messi popped up with the fourth goal on 55 minutes. A short corner was played to Dani Alves, a first-half substitute for the injured Puyol, who sidestepped a Levante challenge before slipping Messi in with consummate ease, and the Argentine slammed his shot into the corner of the net with the defenders motionless.
The game had finished as a contest in the early stages of the first half and the crowd resorted to a Mexican wave, a symbol of their relative comfort and satisfaction with their team's performance.
Barcelona put the icing on the cake in the 61st minute when Alexis Sanchez made it 5-0 through a highly fortunate effort. Levante were caught in possession high up the pitch, allowing the Spanish champions to launch a swift counter-attack. Messi burst forward and fed Sanchez from about eight yards out, the Chilean forward cutting back onto his right foot before dinking a ball towards the back post which unfortunately deflected off the back off Ballesteros and looped into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Messi and Pedro both had glorious chances to extend the lead before Iniesta's 88th minute strike was bizarrely ruled out for offside by the official.
But in truth, it didn't matter and Barcelona secured an eighth league win from nine home games, without conceding a goal in the process. Barcelona's next match is their final group stage Champions League match against Bate Borisov at the Camp Nou on Tuesday and with his side having already won the group, Guardiola is sure to ring the changes.