Lionel Messi now has more goals than Real Madrid trio Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema combined in 2015

Messi has 18 goals this year after scoring a hat-trick against Rayo Vallecano

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The Independent Football

Barcelona went top of La Liga on Sunday thanks to more Lionel Messi magic.

The superstar scored a 12-minute hat-trick against Rayo Vallecano, a record 32nd hat-trick in Spanish football, as Luis Enrique's team secured a 6-1 victory to take advantage of Real Madrid's 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

His latest glut of goals means Messi is not only the form player in the Spanish Primera Division, he is outperforming all three of Real Madrid's famed 'BBC' attack - Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has just seven goals in his last 12 after scoring 34 in his previous 27

Since the turn of the year, Messi has been in absolutely sensational form, scoring 18 goals and providing 11 assists as Barcelona have won 18 and drawn just two of their 20 matches in 2015.

His two strike partners Luis Suarez (10 goals, seven assists) and Neymar (12 goals, one assist) are also performing extremely well and have finally figured out how to play together.

Ronaldo has scored just seven goals and provided three assists as Los Blancos have faltered, with Benzema and Bale struggling even more, with just eight goals and four assists between them.

The Welshman has been especially poor since the turn of the year, with only three goals and three assists in 14 matches, prompting boos from sections of the Bernabeu crowd and calls for the most expensive player ever to be dropped.

Carlo Ancelotti's men have won just eight of their 14 matches in all competitions this year, losing four of those.

Bale's poor performances have prompted boos by the Real Madrid fans

Barcelona are now a point ahead in Spain, with a much superior goal difference. The two teams clash in what will be another title-deciding El Clasico on Sunday, 22 March at the Nou Camp.

Manchester City travel to Catalunya for the second-leg of their last-16 tie against Barca next week.