FC Barcelona took a giant step towards winning the La Liga title after they beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Sunday and nearest challengers Atletico Madrid lost 2-1 at Villarreal.

The results gave the Catalans an 11-point lead at the top of the standings.

Paco Alcacer took the place of suspended striker Luis Suarez in the starting line-up and scored a first goal in three months.

It put Barca ahead in the eighth minute at the Nou Camp, with Alcecer side-footing home a pass from Jordi Alba.

Lionel Messi scored for the sixth game in a row in all competitions and for the 25th time in this league campaign when he doubled Barca’s lead in the 30th minute.

It was done with a deadly strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

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Things were going well for the closest rivals, Atletico Madrid when forward Antoine Griezmann won and converted a penalty kick to put his side ahead at Villarreal in the 20th minute.

However, Turkey striker Enes Unal headed in a deserved equaliser in the 82nd minute and then struck the winner from close range in stoppage time.

The visitors had forward, Vitolo sent off moments later for pushing Villarreal forward, Nicola Sansone.

Barca lead the standings on 75 points with nine games remaining.

Atletico are second with 64, while Villarreal climbed above Sevilla into fifth in the standings after Vincenzo Montella’s side were beaten 2-1 at Leganes.