Barcelona secured a 3-1 win over Malaga last night to re-establish their 11 point gap at the top of La Liga from Atletico Madrid – and move 18 points clear of defending champions and fierce rivals Real Madrid.

Madrid’s 0-0 draw with bottom club Osasuna gave Barca the chance to further tighten their grasp on the league title, and it wasn’t an opportunity they passed up.

Lionel Messi got the ball rolling after a uncharacteristic defensive error from Malaga allowed the Argentinian forward to strike with his 28th league goal of the season.

The 25-year-old has now scored in his last nine games, and is just one short of equaliing Brazilian striker Ronaldo’s record of scoring in ten straight games in 1996/97.

From goalscorer to provider, Messi had a hand in Barcelona’s other two goals, teeing up Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara to secure all three points for the Catalan club at the La Rosaleda Stadium.

Diego Buonanotte curled in a late free-kick for Malaga after coming on as a substitute, but it was scant consolation for Manuel Pellegrini’s side who slipped out of the top four following the defeat.

While Malaga were left licking their wounds, Barcelona were toasting an 18th win out of 19 league games – setting a new record for most points at the half-way stage of the season and putting them on course to accumulate the most points ever in a single La Liga season.

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