Lionel Messi warms up by eclipsing Alfredo Di Stefano record in 6-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano

Brace against Rayo Vallecano sees the Barcelona forward become the third highest La Liga scorer of all-time

They will barely have needed reminding, given the presence of Txiki Begiristain as Manchester City’s sporting director these days, but Lionel Messi proved he is in ominous form as the Argentine scored twice in Barcelona’s 6-0 destruction of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Those goals took Messi’s tally of La Liga goals to 208 –  above Alfredo di Stefano and into joint third place on the all-time list alongside Raul – as Gerardo Martino’s side warmed up in style for Tuesday’s Champions League meeting with City by regaining their lead at the top of the table.

Begiristain famously offered Messi a new five-year contract with a £100m release clause on his 18th birthday in 2005 after seeing him named as the player of the Under-20 World Cup that summer – a decision that has since paid handsome dividends. Having returned from two months out with a hamstring injury at the start of last month, the 26-year-old has now scored five goals in his last three appearances to breathe new life into Barcelona’s title defence at just the right time.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 25 matches in all competitions and went level on points with both Barça and Atletico Madrid yesterday after beating Getafe 3-0. Atletico face Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday having seen off Real Vallodolid on Saturday, but Barcelona’s display against struggling Rayo meant they have now scored 10 goals in their last two league fixtures.

Adriano opened the floodgates in the second minute before Alexis Sanchez, Pedro Rodriguez and a fantastic Neymar goal added to Messi’s double.

There were ugly scenes at El Madrigal, where Celta Vigo’s unlikely 2-0 win over Villarreal was marred by a serious incident which almost saw the match abandoned. Celta were leading when what appeared to be a smoke bomb was thrown on to the pitch, forcing the referee to take the players from the field and leading to most of the supporters leaving the stadium.

After a lengthy stoppage the players eventually re-emerged and the four remaining minutes were played, enough time for Nolito to add a barely deserved second goal for the visitors.

Arsenal’s Champions League opponents Bayern Munich extended their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 46 matches by thrashing Freiburg 4-0 on Saturday. However, the victory came at a cost as Switzerland midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri was ruled out of Wednesday’s trip to the Emirates with a thigh injury.

With Franck Ribéry already ruled out with a buttock injury, Shaqiri – who scored twice to stretch Bayern’s lead at the top over Bayer Leverkusen to 16 points – had been tipped to replace the Frenchman. The Bayern coach, Pep Guardiola, rested several key personnel against Freiburg and is now likely to hand a midfield role to his fellow Spaniard Thiago Alcantara.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick