Messi warms up for El Clasico with 50th career hat-trick
Barcelona star scores 50th career hat-trick against Sevilla, with consecutive clashes against Real on the horizon
With back-to-back El Clasicos coming up, Lionel Messi said Barcelona were back to their best following a mid-season slump, after he scored a remarkable 50th career hat-trick in a rousing 4-2 win at Sevilla in La Liga yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Barca had won only one of five games this month as they kicked off at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, but after another landmark day, Messi pledged his side would now go all out for a Treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies, reported Reuters.
Next up for the Catalan side is a double header against Real Madrid, first in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday morning, and then in the league on Sunday.
Having been held to a goalless draw at Lyon in their Champions League last-16, first leg last Tuesday, Barca looked set for another disappointing result when Jesus Navas gave Sevilla the lead on 22 minutes.
But Messi responded with a stunning volley four minutes later and although Gabriel Mercado put Sevilla in front again before half-time, Barca's captain again hauled his team back into the game quite brilliantly.
His thumping strike from just inside the area saw Barca equalise midway through the second half before he put his side ahead with an ice-cool dinked finish in the 85th minute and then laid on the pass for Luis Suarez to seal all three points in injury time.
After the match, Wissam Ben Yedder tweeted: "In this world, we might have won this game… but there is a player from another planet who wanted it differently."
Messi, meanwhile, proclaimed that Barcelona were themselves again after their February fumbles.
He said: "Today, we were ourselves again and produced a great performance.
"We went through a spell where, to be honest, we did not play our best football, so that made it much harder for us to score.
"You have different moments over a season, and we can't always play at the highest level.
"But when we manage to get the play to flow, things always happen for us."
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, meanwhile, admitted that his side haven't been at their best going forward recently.
He said: "We're not playing our best football, but we're still alive in all three competitions.
"It was vital to win. We've been good in defence in recent games but not so much in attack.
"But today we played better.
"Catalans have a tendency to see the glass (as) half-empty but Messi was really good today, scoring a hat-trick and setting up another goal.
"We have to focus on the fact that we do have Messi, and that on Wednesday he'll be playing at the Bernabeu."
The Copa del Rey semi-final is finely poised at 1-1 after a draw at the Nou Camp earlier this month.
Ahead of Thursday's second leg, Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari complained that the fixture schedule offered Barca an additional day of rest as his side were scheduled to face Levante in La Liga this morning.
Pique had no time for such complaints, saying: "The last time they had one day more rest than us, we won 5-1.
"I know they're looking forward to facing us.
"They will be really up for it, but we will do everything possible to reach the final.
"Then winning the league game wouldn't decide the title - but it would make a huge statement if we won."
Messi, meanwhile, insisted his side will not prioritise either the league or the cup.
He said: "We won't give up in any competition. We are one step from reaching the cup final."