FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol: One game away

Messi celebrates after opening the scoring in minute eight. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Luis Suárez leads with a second-half double as Barça stay atop the league table heading into the final game of the season

In their final home game of the season on Sunday, FC Barcelona treated their fans to an enthralling afternoon of football. With the team inching ever closer to wrapping up the 2015/16 La Liga title and facing cross-town rivals RCD Espanyol in a late-season derby certified as a must-win for both sides, the blaugrana eleven gave the Camp Nou crowd an hour and a half of total football. The defence swarmed, the passing was crisp, and the trident was lethal.

When the final whistle blew FC Barcelona had a 4–0 victory, putting them one win from the championship. Despite a minuscule lead over Atlético Madrid in the standings, Barça came into the game controlling their own destiny. And they still do.

A goose-bump inducing pre-game tribute to recently passed away PA announcer Manel Vich set the stage as both teams stood shoulder to shoulder accompanied by Pau Casals’ El Cant dels Ocells.

Luis Suárez led the blaugrana onslaught with a pair of second-half goals that bring him to the brink of the Pichichi Trophy and the European Golden Shoe.

Messi opened the scoring for Barça in the early going and Rafinha and Neymar added late goals as Barça have now outscored their opponents by 21–0 in their last four games.

Messi gave Barça a 1–0 in the 8th minute after being taken down by Espanyol full-back Víctor Álvarez. Faced with a mouth-watering, front and centre free kick from 22 metres, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner curled the ball over Espanyol’s six-man wall and into the upper-right corner.

Suárez doubled Barça’s lead in the 52nd when an Espanyol turnover in their own end fell to the feet of Dani Alves. The Brazilian full back quickly dished to Messi, who in turn found Suárez.  Two steps later Suárez pulled the trigger and fired past Pau López and into the net.

Then, just X minutes later, Suárez — the Spanish and European goal scoring leader — added to his tally by heading in a corner kick from just shy of the penalty spot.

With a 3–0 lead and just a quarter-hour having ticked by in the second half, the rout was on.

In the 74th, Rafinha — who had just come on for XXXX — pounced on an error by López to slot in from the six-yard box and make it a 4–0 game.

Neymar joined the act in the 83rd minute when he was left wide open on the left side of the Espanyol penalty area and found the net easily with an assist from Suárez to run the lead to 5–0.

The only thing standing between FCB and new piece of hardware is a tête-à-tête with La Liga laggards Granada, who are involved in a late-season struggle to avoid relegation.

In simultaneous league action on Sunday, Atlético fell at Levante and Real Madrid beat Valencia at home to leapfrog Atlético in the table and keep the pressure on.

With the way Barça are playing down the stretch, however, it hardly matters.