Barcelona once again proved to be unstoppable as they notched up their 16th league win of the season and waved goodbye to 2012 sitting pretty at the top of the table with a comfortable 3-1 win over Valladolid.
'Los Azulgranas' have dropped just two points from the 51 available so far this season, and are nine points clear of nearest rivals Atlético Madrid.
These are the statistics of champions, a team that have shown not a single sign of weakness, and although more than half the season is still to be played, it seems unconceivable that anyone can catch them.
Xavi Hernández opened the scoring just before half-time and Messi finished the tie off in the second half. Javi Guerra made the scoreline look fairer than the balance of play suggested but at the end of the game Cristian Tello wrapped the points up just seconds after coming off the bench. It was not a game without controversy, however, as referee Clos Gómez denied the hosts a clear penalty after Jordi Alba blocked a goalbound header from Manucho in the 12th minute.
Valladolid and Barcelona took to the field set on going for the opponents goal at all times in a game that both teams played with plenty of rhythm and intensity. The hosts, conscience of the fact that giving the ball to Barça would be suicidal, set out to press their opponents high up the pitch and suffocated them in the opening stages of the game. Despite being unable to move the ball with their usual speed, Barça created the first chance of the game, with Alexis Sánchez narrowly failing to connect with a pass from Dani Alves after five minutes.
After Valladolid had their penalty appeal turned down, their heads started to drop and Barça began to dominate. Messi hit the post with 10 minutes before the break and then Xavi broke the deadlock, sliding home a low cross from Jordi Alba.
The second half began in the same way as the first but came to the same conclusion. Messi missed a sitter but then scored his 91st goal of the season, and then Barça dropped the pace. Javi Guerra's 89th minute goal gave Valladolid faint hope, which was soon killed off by Tello's injury time goal.