Neymar, Suarez lift Barca again
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Neymar scored twice and Luis Suarez added another goal yesterday to again lead Barcelona in the absence of Lionel Messi, this time to a 3-0 win at home over Villarreal in the Spanish league.
Real Madrid lost 3-2 to Sevilla to sit three points behind Barcelona.
Barcelona needed an hour of insistent attacks until Neymar broke through before Suarez added a penalty in the 70th.
Neymar scored an exquisite second goal in the 85th when he used a sublime touch to flip the ball over a defender before spinning and driving it home.
"I thought about the move before I did it, and I pulled it off," Neymar said. "I'm happy with what I am giving the team, but I think I can improve."
One thing is clear: Neymar and Suarez are giving Barcelona's fans hope that they won't need Messi to get a good result at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium when the teams meet after the international break.
The two stars lead Barcelona with 13 goals each this season and have scored 20 of Barcelona's 23 goals since Messi tore a ligament in his left knee on September 26. Neymar scored twice and Suarez once in a 3-0 win over BATE Borisov in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique left open the possibility of Messi being fit for the big match.
"Do I rule him out for the 'clasico'? I can't say yes, nor can I say no. He is recovering and recovering well," Luis Enrique said. "We are infinitely stronger with Messi."
In the capital, Antoine Griezmann scored a header three minutes into stoppage time to give AtlÈtico Madrid a 1-0 victory over Sporting Gijon that lifted them into third place at four points off the lead.
Villarreal neutralised Barcelona's superior possession in the first half, and their patience almost paid off when forward Samuel Castillejo tested Claudio Bravo seconds before half-time.
But Villarreal, which were left in fifth place after a third away game without a win, couldn't keep up as Barcelona poured forward.
Barcelona's breakthrough came when Sergio Busquets intercepted a pass and played Neymar clear in the area, with the Brazilian scoring with his left foot.
Munir El Haddadi then set up Suarez when Jaume Costa fouled the forward while dribbling past him in the area, and the striker sent his spot kick to the right of goalie Alphonse Aroela as he dove the other way.
With the win in hand, Neymar added some flare by scoring his graceful goal to take his league-leading tally to 11.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams scored his fifth goal in eight days to help beat Espanyol 2-1.
His eighth-minute opener was similar to Neymar's second strike as the 21-year-old lifted the ball over a defender before unleashing a powerful shot.