Liga - Fabregas on song as Barca smash Levante
Cesc Fabregas scored twice as Barcelona thrashed Levante 5-0 at the Camp Nou to stay three points behind Liga leaders Real Madrid ahead of next weekend's Clasico.
First-half goals from Fabregas put the home side 2-0 up before youngster Isaac Cuenca, Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez racked up a score that reflected Barca’s complete dominance of the match.
Andres Iniesta weighed in with a pair of wonderful assists, with Xavi, Dani Alves and Messi creating the others as the home side ran riot ahead of the high-flying underdogs, who stay fourth despite the hammering.
It could have been more but for some unusual misses by Messi, and an incorrectly disallowed Iniesta goal that would have been farcical had Barca not already been five goals to the good.
The win sends out a signal to leaders Real, who won 3-0 at Sporting Gijon earlier, with next Saturday’s clash at the Bernabeu set to be a six-point humdinger.
The normally adventurous Levante appeared resigned that Barcelona would dominate and set up somewhat negatively.
It mattered not as Barca took the lead three minutes in as Fabregas was played through by a delightful backheel from Iniesta, rifling a low finish past Gustavo Munua for an early lead.
That strike extended Barca’s tally to 11 goals within the first 15 minutes of a league match this season, six clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid.
It was the start of a long night for Levante - whose only first-half chance came on 44 minutes when Arouna Kone fired straight at Victor Valdes after Xavi Torres played him through - with Barca hogging the ball and carving them apart at will.
Cuenca, in for the benched David Villa, was in fine form as he traded wings with Sanchez, almost bursting clean through from the right on 12 minutes.
Messi went on a mesmerising solo run but his finish was deflected wide, while Munua kept out a free-kick from the Argentine before holding on to Carles Puyol’s follow-up.
Barca and Fabregas finally got a second, with the former Arsenal midfielder’s unmarked header from Xavi’s left-wing free-kick testament to the poor defending at times in La Liga, left-back Asier del Horno at fault this time.
That came on 33 minutes and soon afterwards it was 3-0 as Cuenca got his second goal in a senior Barcelona match, passing a low shot inside the right-hand post after a glorious one-touch move culminated in an Iniesta lay-off, his second assist of the evening.
Sergio Busquets, one booking away from getting banned for the upcoming Clasico, was taken off at half time and it was business as usual initially as Fabregas almost completed a one-two with Alexis Sanchez.
Levante responded gamely enough as Del Horno met a corner with a smart header that Valdes saved well, but that merely served to goad Barca into a fourth, which fell to Messi as he controlled and finished past Munua after a glorious reverse pass by substitute Alves.
Messi worked his low, passed finish with a lovely first touch but he soon followed that with an uncharacteristic mis-hit after Cuenca laid the ball to him 10 yards out with just Munua to beat.
It was 5-0 a few minutes later though, with Messi the provider as Sanchez clipped a lob over Munua via a deflection off Del Horno, the result of a scintillating counter-attack.
Barca sensed a possible rugby score as they continued to launch waves of attacks, Messi missing two good chances from Sanchez passes, with the reverse combination seeing the Chilean head straight at Munua.
Messi completed his hat-trick of misses when, from a corner, he blasted wide after the ball was flicked on by Sanchez yet again, while sub Pedro sliced wide after a lovely pass by Xavi.
Then came one of the more bizarre rogue flags in recent memory as, after visiting defender Pedro Lopez wildly sliced a clearance into the pass of Iniesta, the Spain star was called offside as he struck a sweet first-time finish past Munua.
Iniesta was past the last outfield player, but it was said defender who played the ball - clearly, and with no hint of a deflection - and so bad was the decision that Barca protested furiously despite having already won the match.
Only a minute was added on as Levante were put out of their misery while Barca can focus their attentions on Real next weekend, with the Champions League match against BATE in midweek a dead rubber that should see Pep Guardiola use his squad to the maximum.