January 9, 2016 / 5:44 PM / 2 years ago

Granada fall under the spell of magical Messi

Football Soccer - Barcelona v Granada - Spanish Liga - Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona - 9/1/16Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores a goal against Granada's goalkeeper Andres Fernandez. REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - Lionel Messi netted his first hat-trick in 10 months as Barcelona swept aside struggling Granada 4-0 to climb above Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga on Saturday.

Turkey playmaker Arda Turan, making his La Liga debut for the Spanish and European champions, set captain Messi up to score the opening goal from close range in the eighth minute at the Nou Camp.

The Argentina forward, who missed two months at the end of last year with a knee injury, made it 2-0 six minutes later from a clever Luis Suarez assist and a dominant Barca wasted several chances before halftime.

Messi, favourite to win a fifth FIFA Ballon d‘Or award on Monday, completed his 25th La Liga treble in the 58th minute after Neymar’s shot came back off a post, ending his longest hat-trick drought in six years.

Neymar added a fourth goal seven minutes from time when Messi, who was in an offside position, let the ball run through to the Brazilian and he lifted it over Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez into the roof of the net.

Football Soccer - Barcelona v Granada - Spanish Liga - Camp Nou stadium, Barcelona - 9/1/16Barcelona's Luis Suarez (L) against Granada's Cristiano Biraghi. REUTERS/Albert Gea

With Granada hovering just above the relegation zone, Barca coach Luis Enrique rested first-choice midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, centre back Javier Mascherano and full back Dani Alves and said he would continue to rotate in the coming weeks.

“I make some changes now when I can and I have the chance to share out the burden,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.

“The key will be to get to the matches in a couple of months feeling fresh and that’s why I have to ration (playing time),” added the former Barca and Spain midfielder.

Barca, who have a game in hand over their main rivals, lead the way on 42 points, with Atletico a point behind in second position ahead of their game at fifth-placed Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane has his first game as Real Madrid coach later on Saturday when Deportivo La Coruna, who are seventh, visit the Bernabeu.

A win for Real would lift them to 40 points in third spot, four ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal who host Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Editing by Tony Jimenez

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