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Paco Alcacer And Leo Messi Goals Keep Barcelona Unbeaten

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 18: Players of Barcelona celebrate a goal during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on March 18, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Barcelona maintained their unbeaten La Liga record this season as they cruised to victory over Athletic Bilbao.

The hosts scored after only eight minutes when Paco Alcacer, who replaced the suspended Luis Suarez, steered in Jordi Alba’s pull-back.

Lionel Messi made it 2-0 with a low 20-yard strike following good work by team-mate Ousmane Dembele.

Philippe Coutinho also hit the crossbar twice and Paulinho hit the post for La Liga’s leaders.

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Barcelona are 11 points clear at the top of the table and second-placed Atletico Madrid lost 2-1 at Villarreal on Sunday.

Antoine Griezmann’s penalty put Atletico ahead, but two goals in the last eight minutes from Enes Unal gave Villareal the win. Atletico also finished with 10 men as Vitolo was dismissed in injury time.

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No team has gone an entire 38-game La Liga campaign without defeat; Barcelona have nine league games remaining, having won 23 and drawn six of 29 matches played so far.

The record for an unbeaten run from the start of a La Liga season is 32 games, set by Real Sociedad in 1979-80.

Paco Alcacer scored his sixth Barcelona goal of the season but his first in 2018.

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Barcelona missed out on the league title to Real Madrid last season, but are on course to win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in 2017-18.

On Wednesday, they secured a 3-0 win over Chelsea to seal a 4-1 aggregate victory in the last 16 of the Champions League and Ernesto Valverde’s side will be confident of overcoming quarter-final opponents Roma.

Barcelona have also reached the Copa del Rey final, in which they will play Sevilla on 21 April, and are heading towards their 25th La Liga title.

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Athletic offered little at the Nou Camp and Messi forced a fine save by away goalkeeper Kepa before Alcacer opened the scoring shortly afterwards.

From then on, it became a matter of how many Barcelona would get, as Kepa denied both Messi and Dembele, and Coutinho hit the bar for the first time.

Messi then scored his 25th La Liga goal of the season with a low strike.

The hosts had further first-half chances, but Coutinho hit the woodwork again after fine link-up play with Messi and ex-Tottenham man Paulinho shot against the outside of the post.

Athletic, who went out of the Europa League at the last-16 stage to Marseille on Thursday, improved after the break as their best chances fell to Inigo Lekue and Sabin Merino, but both men shot wide.

Barcelona have only conceded 13 goals from their 29 La Liga games in 2017-18, and scored 74 times.

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