After Luis Suarez’s opener 10 minutes into the second-half, Messi virtually sealed the victory when he converted the penalty conceded by Dani Carvajal for palming away a goal bound effort.
Carvajal was dismissed for his impromptu goalkeeping and Messi thrashed home his 19th goal of the season to put the pacesetters 2-0 up. The 31-year-old Argentine helped rub salt in the wounds by teeing up Aleix Vidal for Barca's third in injury time.
Real went into ‘El Clasico’ on the back of collecting their fifth trophy of the season following their triumph at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
Seven months after becoming the first team to win back-to-back Uefa Champions League titles, Real set another record by retaining the Club World Cup. Zinedine Zidane’s men beat Gremio 1-0 in the final with Ronaldo hitting the winner.
However a week later, their hopes of successfully defending the La Liga crown appear slim. Even if they win their game in hand, Barcelona will still be 11 points clear.
Meanwhile the Catalans appear galvanized. Since their 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in August, Ernesto Valverde’s team have won 14 and drawn three in La Liga.