Barcelona coped with the absence of Lionel Messi to win 2-0 at bottom club Malaga on Saturday as goals from Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho sent the Catalans 11 points clear at the top of La Liga.
Messi was dropped from the squad for the first time this season to attend the birth of his third son Ciro, but Barca barely needed their talisman against free-falling Malaga as they warmed up brilliantly for the visit of Chelsea in the Champions league Tuesday.
Suarez got the show on the road when he headed home a looping cross from Alba to give Barca the lead in the 15th minute after an initial scare from the hosts – who were the last team to beat Barca in the league.
Record signing Coutinho doubled their advantage in the 28th minute with a backheel from close range after an impressive dribble down the right from Ousmane Dembele.
Malaga’s task got even harder as striker Samu Garcia was sent off after half an hour for a studs- up challenge on Jordi Alba.
Ernesto Velverde’s men remain unbeaten in the league and lead the standings with 72 points, 11 clear of Atletico Madrid who host Celta Vigo on Sunday, while Real Madrid move are third on 57 after seeing leaving it late to see off Eibar 2-1 courtesy of a brace from the in-form Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rodrigo Moreno scored either side of halftime as Valencia tightened their grip on fourth place by winning 2-0 at Sevilla to open an 11-point gap between both sides.