Messi treble lifts Barca to the top of La Liga

MADRID: Lionel Messi netted his first hat-trick in 10 months as Barcelona swept aside struggling Granada 4-0 to climb above Atletico Madrid to the top of La Liga on Saturday.

Arda Turan, making his La Liga debut for the Spanish and European champions, set Messi up to score the opening goal from close range in the eighth minute at the Nou Camp.

The Argentina forward, who missed two months at the end of last year with a knee injury, made it 2-0 six minutes later from a clever Luis Suarez assist and a dominant Barca wasted several chances before halftime.

Granada saw more of the ball at the start of the second half before Messi completed his treble in the 58th minute after Neymar’s shot came back off a post, ending his longest hat-trick drought in six years.

Neymar added a fourth goal seven minutes from time when Messi, who was in an offside position, let the ball run through to the Brazilian and he lifted it over Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez into the roof of the net.

Barca, who have a game in hand over their main rivals, lead on 42 points, with Atletico a point behind in second ahead of their game at fifth-placed Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane makes his debut as Real Madrid coach later on Saturday when Deportivo La Coruna, who are seventh, visit the Bernabeu.

A win for Real would lift them to 40 points in third, four ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal, who host Sporting Gijon on Sunday.