Messi offside for opening Barcelona goal v Espanyol

Ernesto Valverde banks on debutant Ousmane Dembele to make instant impact against Espanyol

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to help see off Espanyol in the Catalan derby and take Barcelona top of La Liga.

Five-time Ballon d'Or victor was in fine form, opening the scoring in the 26th minute, following up again ten minutes later, utilising expert service from Jordi Alba, sealing his hat-trick with more than 20 minutes remaining.

Barcelona has quickly put an agonizing August behind it and taken the early lead of the Spanish league.

On the pitch Barcelona have won their opening two games of the season, despite not playing their best football and they can expect Espanyol to again make things hard for them.

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There were also home debuts for summer signings Ousmane Dembele and Paulinho, with the former setting up Suarez with an exceptional assist for the final goal of the night.

Real Madrid fell four points adrift and sits in sixth place after a second consecutive draw at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, 1-1 with newly promoted Levante. The Spaniard's cutback was dispatched with a low shot by Messi.

Rakitic himself then spurned two outstanding chances around the half hour mark but it did not matter, as Messi soon doubled the lead after dogged work by Jordi Alba.

Espanyol almost pulled a goal back just before the break when Pablo Piatti rattled the upright from the edge of the box. Set up Messi's first goal (and Pique's), nearly scored a brilliant goal of his own and drove forward from midfield time and again. However, Luis Suarez featured for Uruguay in the recent break and is back in contention for a starting spot after recovering from the injury he endured against Betis in Barcelona's season opener.

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It continued to be one-way traffic and on 87 minutes, Gerard Pique nodded home from a corner and it was 5-0 soon after when Luis Suarez coolly rolled the ball in following nice work by Dembele.

Espanyol: Pau Lopez 7, Sergio Sanchez 6, David Lopez 6, Hermoso 5, Aaron Caricol 5, Pablo Piatti 6, Pape Diop 6, Javi Fuego 5, Sergi Darder 5, Leo Baptistao 6, Gerard Moreno 5; Marc Navarro (for Sanchez, 68) 6, Sergio Garcia (for Piatti, 57) 6, Didac Vila (for Darder, 71) 6.

Dembele's every touch was cheered and he responded by tearing away from an embattled backline to let Suarez end his personal misery, Pique having revelled in piling further derby misery upon Espanyol shortly beforehand.

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