Alexis Sanchez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Elche to return to the top of La Liga.

The Spanish giants, without the injured Lionel Messi, opened the scoring when Sanchez stabbed in Jordi Alba's fine first-half cross.

Fidel hit the woodwork for Elche but Pedro added a second when he raced on to a through ball before finishing.

Xavi missed a second-half penalty but Sanchez tapped home before curling in a stunning free kick.

Barcelona move level on points with Atletico Madrid but go top with a better goal difference. The two sides face each other on Saturday.

Messi returned to training last week after five weeks out with a hamstring injury, but was left out of the squad to face Elche, with coach Gerardo Martino perhaps looking to ensure he is fit for the crucial clash with Atletico.

Maybe not missing Messi?

  • Since Lionel Messi injured his hamstring on 10 November, Barcelona have won seven and lost one of their last eight league fixtures

In truth, Barcelona did not miss Messi against Elche with Sanchez instead taking centre stage as he increased his tally to 11 goals for the season.

He got his first with Barcelona's first attack of the game as Alba raced away down the flank before curling a smart ball behind the defence, giving Sanchez the simple task of poking home a first-time shot.

Elche, in their first season back in the Spanish top flight after a 24-year absence, went into the game on the back of three consecutive league defeats and rarely looked like ending that run at the Nou Camp, although they were unlucky not to equalise when Fidel struck the woodwork soon after Sanchez's opener.

But from then it was all Barcelona. Cesc Fabregas carved open the Elche defence with a smart through ball that sent Pedro clear and the Spain forward rounded Elche goalkeeper Tono before sidefooting the ball into the empty net.

Pedro and Iniesta combined midway through the first half and the latter brought a fine save out of Tono, before Sanchez struck the side-netting with a decent effort as half-time approached.

Barcelona should have extended their lead soon after the restart when Fabregas was brought down inside the area, but captain Xavi compounded to send the spot kick wide.

But a third goal did arrive just after the hour mark when Pedro unselfishly squared a pass to Sanchez and the Chile forward made no mistake from eight yards out.

Barcelona dominated the closing stages before Sanchez capped a fine all-round performance with his third goal of the game, curling a 20-yard free kick over the wall and into the back of the net.

Lineup, Bookings (4) & Substitutions (6)

Barcelona

  • 01 Valdés
  • 02 Montoya
  • 18 Alba Booked
  • 17 Song
  • 15 Bartra
  • 03 Piqué
  • 06 Xavi (Sergi - 65' )
  • 08 Iniesta
  • 04 Fábregas Booked
  • 09 Sánchez (Tello - 74' )
  • 07 Pedro (Neymar - 81' )

Substitutes

  • 05 Puyol
  • 11 Neymar
  • 13 Pinto Colorado
  • 14 Mascherano
  • 20 Tello
  • 21 Adriano
  • 24 Sergi

Elche

  • 13 Rodríguez Martínez
  • 19 Sapunaru (Mantecón - 80' )
  • 21 Albácar Gallego
  • 06 Pérez Minguez Booked
  • 03 Botía Booked
  • 04 Rodríguez Lombán
  • 07 Ñíguez Esclapez
  • 24 Sánchez (Márquez - 66' )
  • 09 Boakye
  • 15 Gil de Pareja Vicent
  • 16 Chaves de la Torre (Del Moral Fernández - 61' )

Substitutes

  • 05 Rivera
  • 08 Mantecón
  • 14 Del Moral Fernández
  • 17 Márquez
  • 18 Pelegrín
  • 28 Herrera
  • 30 Martínez Aranda
Ref: David Fernández Borbalán
Att: 85,000

Match Stats

Shots

13 3

On target

6 0

Corners

1 2

Fouls

12 17

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Barcelona 4, Elche 0.

90:00 +3:01 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Barcelona 4, Elche 0.

90:00 +2:59

Attempt missed. Javier Márquez (Elche) left footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is too high from a direct free kick.

90:00 +2:19

Foul by Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona).

90:00 +2:19

Carles Gil (Elche) wins a free kick on the left wing.

89:46

Marc Bartra went off injured after Barcelona had used all subs.

89:00

Martín Montoya (Barcelona) wins a free kick on the right wing.

89:00

Foul by Manu del Moral (Elche).

88:13

Attempt saved. Neymar (Barcelona) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta.

87:26

Jordi Alba (Barcelona) wins a free kick on the left wing.

87:26

Foul by Aarón (Elche).

85:41 Booking

Booking Rubén Pérez (Elche) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

85:34

Neymar (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

85:34

Rubén Pérez (Elche).

85:29

Neymar (Barcelona) wins a free kick on the left wing.

85:29

Foul by Aarón (Elche).

85:02

Neymar (Barcelona) wins a free kick on the left wing.

85:02

Foul by Aarón (Elche).

82:43

Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

82:43

Foul by Manu del Moral (Elche).

80:25 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Barcelona. Neymar replaces Pedro.

79:21 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Elche. Sergio Mantecón replaces Cristian Sapunaru because of an injury.

74:14

Corner, Elche. Conceded by Alexandre Song.

73:58 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Barcelona. Cristian Tello replaces Alexis Sánchez.

73:19

Foul by Pedro (Barcelona).

73:19

Aarón (Elche) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

72:08 Booking

Booking Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card.

72:04 Booking

Booking Jordi Alba (Barcelona) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

71:58

Foul by Jordi Alba (Barcelona).

71:58

Aarón (Elche) wins a free kick on the right wing.

68:15 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Barcelona 4, Elche 0. Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) from a free kick with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

67:10 Booking

Booking Alberto Botía (Elche) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

67:04

Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

67:04

Foul by Alberto Botía (Elche).

66:00 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Elche. Javier Márquez replaces Carlos Sánchez.

65:36

Foul by Martín Montoya (Barcelona).

65:36

Richmond Boakye (Elche) wins a free kick on the left wing.

64:25 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Barcelona. Sergi Roberto replaces Xavi.

63:55

Foul by Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona).

63:55

Cristian Sapunaru (Elche) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

62:14 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Barcelona 3, Elche 0. Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Pedro.

60:24 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Elche. Manu del Moral replaces Fidel.

58:21

Pedro (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

58:21

Foul by Cristian Sapunaru (Elche).

57:43

Attempt missed. Pedro (Barcelona) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Andrés Iniesta.

55:12

Foul by Alexandre Song (Barcelona).

55:12

Richmond Boakye (Elche) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

52:03

Attempt blocked. Richmond Boakye (Elche) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Rubén Pérez.

49:29

Corner, Barcelona. Conceded by Edu Albácar.

48:42

Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

48:42

Foul by Aarón (Elche).

47:56

Penalty missed! Bad penalty by Xavi (Barcelona) right footed shot is close, but misses to the right. Xavi should be disappointed.

46:56

Penalty Barcelona. Francesc Fábregas draws a foul in the penalty area.

46:56

Penalty conceded by Cristian Sapunaru (Elche) after a foul in the penalty area.

46:22

Foul by Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona).

46:22

Edu Albácar (Elche) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

45:16

Offside, Elche. Rubén Pérez tries a through ball, but Fidel is caught offside.

45:00

Second Half begins Barcelona 2, Elche 0.

45:00 +0:05 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Barcelona 2, Elche 0.

42:35

Attempt missed. Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Francesc Fábregas.

41:08

Foul by Jordi Alba (Barcelona).

41:08

Carles Gil (Elche) wins a free kick on the right wing.

38:52

Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

38:52

Foul by Carlos Sánchez (Elche).

36:42

Attempt blocked. Xavi (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

36:40

Attempt blocked. Xavi (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Francesc Fábregas.

35:17

(Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

35:17

Back pass by Toño (Elche).

34:13

Attempt blocked. Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Pedro.

29:37

Attempt missed. Pedro (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top right corner.

28:52

Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

28:52

Foul by Carlos Sánchez (Elche).

27:33

Foul by Alexandre Song (Barcelona).

27:33

Richmond Boakye (Elche) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:30

Attempt missed. Pedro (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Francesc Fábregas.

19:53

Offside, Barcelona. Andrés Iniesta tries a through ball, but Alexis Sánchez is caught offside.

17:08

Foul by Alexandre Song (Barcelona).

17:08

Richmond Boakye (Elche) wins a free kick on the right wing.

15:12 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Barcelona 2, Elche 0. Pedro (Barcelona) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Francesc Fábregas with a through ball.

13:08

Richmond Boakye (Elche) hits the left post with a left footed shot from the left side of the box. Assisted by Fidel.

12:11

Foul by Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona).

12:11

Edu Albácar (Elche) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

11:11

Alexandre Song (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

11:11

Foul by Rubén Pérez (Elche).

9:50

Alexandre Song (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

9:50

Foul by Carles Gil (Elche).

9:19

Foul by Francesc Fábregas (Barcelona).

9:19

Carles Gil (Elche) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

6:47 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Barcelona 1, Elche 0. Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Jordi Alba with a cross.

5:05

Corner, Elche. Conceded by Alexandre Song.

3:43

Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

3:43

Foul by Rubén Pérez (Elche).

3:21

Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

3:21

Foul by Edu Albácar (Elche).

1:02

Offside, Barcelona. Andrés Iniesta tries a through ball, but Alexis Sánchez is caught offside.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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