Lionel Messi, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer struck twice each as Barcelona dismantled Osasuna and turned up the heat on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
Javier Mascherano scored the other goal from the penalty spot, his first ever in a Barcelona shirt.
Messi opened the scoring in the 12th minute, racing through on goal and juggling the ball before lofting it over Salvatore Sirigu.
Barcelona dominated and the only surprise was that it took another 18 minutes for the second goal to arrive, Gomes slamming home from Ivan Rakitic’s cross.
Roberto Torres cut Barcelona’s lead in half after the break, whipping in a superb free-kick after a needless foul by Sergio Busquets.
Mascherano’s header was tipped onto the post as Barcelona tried to hit back, while Ivan Rakitic was denied a clear penalty when Jhon Steven fouled him.
However Gomes netted his second after Gerard Pique’s effort bounced back off the post and then Messi followed suit with a belter from the edge of the box.
Paco Alcacer made it five when he reached Arda Turan’s chip forward and then Mascherano scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot after Denis was fouled, before Alcacer rounded off the rout.
Here are five things we learned…
1. Return of the King… and long may he live
Lionel Messi returned, triumphant, to the Camp Nou after he slayed the Madrid dragon on St George’s Day, netting his 500th goal for the club with his last minute Clasico winner. Waiting for him was a gigantic banner to thank him for his efforts.
The fans sang Messi’s name in the 10th minute and took their shirts off, imitating his celebration after his second goal against Madrid. And two minutes later he repaid them with another fine goal, racing through on goal and lifting it neatly over Sirigu and into the net.
Messi put on a show, both against Madrid and here, and what he was saying was—I’m not going anywhere.
After Barcelona’s Champions League knock-out by Juventus he came in for criticism but in the previous two matches he has shown he’s as good as ever.
2. Bye bye Osasuna
This was an odd performance from La Liga’s basement boys. The Navarra outfit are 20th and if Leganes win against Las Palmas then they will be relegated tonight.
In the first half they played cagily, even after going 2-0 down and it seemed like they would be demoted to the second division without a fight.
Then in the second half they came out looking for goals—and found them, just at the wrong end.
After Torres’ free-kick gave them a sliver of hope at 2-1, Barcelona whisked it away with a goal blitz at the other end, hammering four more in an 11-minute spell.
Beyond some nice goals from striker Sergio Leon, they haven’t offered much to La Liga this season and will be heading down with a whimper.
3. This was a shop window
Luis Enrique rotated his side so they are fit for the tougher challenges ahead, but this line-up also put various players in the shop window.
There will be a lot of change at Barcelona in the summer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple of players from this starting XI leave.
Beyond Ter Stegen, Pique, Busquets and Messi, anyone would be fair game if a sufficient bid arrived for him.
Gomes is one who has found it hard to fit in after joining last summer and he scored a brace which might draw some attention. That said anybody who watched the full game would have seen a player lacking confidence.
Arda Turan is another who might head for the Camp Nou exit and sporting director Robert Fernandez seemed to be encouraging bids from China for him before the game.
When asked about interest from the Chinese Super League for the Turk he replied: “We’re not aware of any offers from China, but if one arrives we will study it.”
4. Masche will leave big shoes to fill
One player who might be leaving is Javier Mascherano. At time this season he’s been caught out and he no longer looks physically up to the task of playing for the club week in, week out.
He last scored in 2010 while at Liverpool and this was his first for Barcelona, only his fourth strike in club colours—curiously he has five for Argentina.
Mascherano came close with a header that hit the post and when Barcelona won a penalty he wanted to take it.
The defender blasted it home, whereas in the past he has sometimes turned down the opportunity to score from the spot, raising suspicions that he is planning an exit this summer.
Within the club he is still an important figure and loved by his team-mates, as evidenced by their joyous reaction when he netted the penalty.
5. Confidence building for Paco
This was Paco Alcacer’s third straight league start and with each passing game he improves.
Denied chances by the prolific MSN strike line, with Neymar’s suspension the former Valencia hitman was given a chance to get some minutes.
Although he didn’t score in the Clasico he worked hard on the left for Barcelona and his first strike was a poacher’s effort, with the second well taken too.
Neymar will return to face Espanyol on Saturday but Luis Enrique should keep trying to give Alcacer minutes where possible.
After a long spell frozen out, he is thawing and it would be a mistake to ‘lose’ the player again to inactivity. Barcelona must harness his improving form and utilise it during what will be a tight and tense run-in with Real Madrid.