With three teams deadlocked on 28-points at the top of La Liga table, Barcelona will have been aware that a win against Espanyol tonight could afford them some necessary breathing space. On the evidence of the first-half, it's an outcome Lionel Messi is doing all in his power to bring about.
Finishing an incredulous fifth in the Ballon d'Or listings earlier this week, it has long been noted that the Argentine has somewhat normalised the sublime.
As the score stood at 0-0 and Lionel Messi was presented with the chance of putting Barcelona ahead with a free-kick, the resulting execution was simply stunning.
You've seen this goal countless times before, but it doesn't make it all that less impressive.
With that, he was up and running. Dominating proceedings in a manner that has not been always evident in Barcelona's league form this season, Messi's role in setting up Ousmane Dembele for the second was equally mesmerising.
Simply refusing to release the ball to the enclave of Espanyol defenders, the Barcelona captain somehow managed to find a pass that played in the onrushing Dembele.
Doing no small part of great work himself in turning the chance into a goal, it has been a phenomenal first-half performance from Lionel Messi.
As always, those who continue to allow themselves be bamboozled by what the Argentine can do were rightly pleased.
Take Messi’s first half. Take each one of the ‘things’ and distribute them one a week and you’ve got 7, 8 weeks of things that would delight most players
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) December 8, 2018
Messi with three pieces of skill in 36 minutes that other players don't do in a year.
— Robbie Dunne (@robbiejdunne) December 8, 2018
Messi in the kind of mood tonight whereby you owe it to yourself to be watching if you aren’t already. Regardless of allegiances and rivalries, we love football and he does it better, more beautifully than anyone I’ve ever seen. He won’t be around forever
— Ryan Baldi (@RyanBaldiFW) December 8, 2018
Although this one didn't come to pass, just look at what should have been an assist for Luis Suarez below.
In the second-half, the magic kept on coming. Already 3-0 to the good, another Lionel Messi free-kick left the Espanyol 'keeper with no chance.