Barcelona opened up an 11 point lead between themselves and Valencia after a comprehensive 5-1 win at the Camp Nou, with Lionel Messi bagging four goals and Xavi scoring another.
Speaking in last week's press conference, Carles Puyol urged his teammates to win all of their remaining fixtures in a bid to catch up with runaway leaders Real Madrid and they responded in magnificent fashion, despite suffering an early set-back when Valencia opened the scoring after nine minutes through Pablo Piatti. The Argentine striker ghosted in between Gerard Pique and Martin Montoya to divert Sofiane Feghouli's cross past Valdes, who had misjudged the flight of the ball.
Pedro nearly equalised only minutes later but his shot was comfortably saved by Diego Alves after a succession of stepovers from the Spanish winger. He did however turn provider for the first of Messi's haul when he showed Miguel a clean pair of heels down the left wing before delivering a low cross which Adil Rami failed to clear, allowing Messi to nip in and tuck the ball cleverly under Alves's midriff from close range.
The Fifa Ballon d'Or winner added a second goal in the 27th minute after a wonderful through ball from Andrés Iniesta released Eric Abidal down the left flank and his low cross found its way to the Argentine winger on the back post whose first effort was well saved by Alves but he stabbed home the rebound to give Barcelona a deserved lead.
Cesc Fabregas produced a world-class through ball to send Alexis Sanchez through on goal but the Chilean attacker saw his shot expertly saved by Alves as Barcelona continued to crank up the pressure.
Fabregas was the next to test the Spanish shotstopper as he jinked past four Valencia defenders before slamming a shot against the legs of Alves. The €40 million summer signing also saw his audacious volley on the turn strike the crossbar after Iniesta's impudent chip.
Valencia were shaken and the half-time whistle was a welcome break for Unai Emery's side who were fortunate to only be a solitary goal down after the opening 45 minutes.
However, Barcelona continued to assert their dominance from the kick-off and Alves produced another fine save to prevent Sanchez at his near post after just 43 seconds. The margin of victory could have been greater for Pep Guardiola's side were it not for the heroic exploits of Diego Alves who continued to frustrate Barcelona's attack with a fine fingertip save from Fabregas's finessed effort before he palmed Messi's venomous header onto the crossbar.
Barcelona's leading goalscorer would not be denied his hat-trick however, smashing a rebound low into the right-hand corner of the net after Alves had parried substitute Cristian Tello's shot. It signalled Messi's 17th hat-trick in Barcelona colours, an extraordinary landmark for the 24 year-old who was celebrating his 200th La Liga match.
Messi saved his best goal for last though, his 23rd league goal of the season, when he sublimely chipped Alves after being played through by Sergio Busquets, bringing him within one goal of Cristiano Ronaldo in the goalscoring charts.
Xavi was introduced for a late cameo and added his name to scoreboard in the 91st minute, cheekily lofting the ball over Alves's head after Messi's through ball had been cut out.
It was a fantastic demonstration of football by Guardiola's side but their true test will come in the form of Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderón next weekend where they will need to amend their disappointing away form if they are to seriously contend with Jose Mourinho's side.