By Noah TanFollow @@Noah_Tan
Messi's hat-trick and assist for Cristian Tello was just enough for Barcelona to hang on for a 5-4 victory over Deportivo, while Radamel Falcao showed his quality once again with a terrific free-kick to earn Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad.
Injury-hit Real Madrid were uninspired but effective in their 2-0 win over Celta Vigo which helped them move up to fourth in the table, but they will be nervously looking over their shoulder as a Jesus Navas inspired Sevilla side overcame Real Mallorca 3-2 to keep pace with Los Blancos.
Valencia showed great character to come from behind and beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 courtesy of a late Nelson Valdez goal, Malaga left it late to beat Real Valladolid 2-1 and Granada fell to a 2-1 loss to Real Zaragoza.
Elsewhere, Osasuna and Real Betis were both unable to find the net as the two sides shared the spoils in a goal-less draw, Levante managed to eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Getafe courtesy of a lovely Michel strike, while Espanyol managed to overcome a spirited Rayo Vallecano side 3-2 to grab a crucial three points.
Here, ESPNSTAR.com picks the best 11 players from this week's action in La Liga. The formation for this week is 3-4-3.
GK: Enaut Zubikarai (Real Sociedad)
Stepping onto the pitch knowing that you are expected to keep out one of the world's best strikers, Radamael Falcao, is as daunting as it sounds but Zibikarai still managed to put in a respectable shift in goal to deny Atletico Madrid from running away with the game.
The 28-year-old was commanding in his penalty area and did well to keep out early efforts from Joge Koke as well as Cristian Rodriguez to keep his side in the game. Zubikarai then produced the save of the game with a stunning one-handed reflex stop to tip the ball over after his team-mate Mikel Gonzalez had inadvertently flicked the ball towards goal. Unfortunately for Zubikarai, he was unable to keep a clean sheet, but even then, it took a near unstoppable free-kick from Falcao before his goal was finally breached.
CB: Pepe (Real Madrid)
Pepe was one of the two first-team defenders (the other being Sergio Ramos) who featured for injury-hit Real in their 2-0 win over Celta Vigo but the Portuguese international made sure the absences of senior defenders Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa were not felt.
Along with Ramos, the 29-year-old put in a commanding shift at the back for Los Blancos; he was near unbeatable in the air and used his experience to great effect, reading the game well to snuff out Os Celestes' attacks with ease.
CB: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
The 19-year-old defender is undoubtedly one of the brightest young talents to emerge from France in recent times and he enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a composed display at the back for Real. In the team only because of injuries to several of Los Blancos' first choice defenders, Varane showed no signs of nervousness and took to the field like a seasoned professional.
The former Lens player's timing of the challenge was apparent in this game, as he put in several well-timed tackles during the game to stop the Celta forwards in their tracks. Varane's effective distribution of the ball from the back was also a highlight of his game and there is no doubt that barring any serious injuries, Varane will blossom into a fine defender for Los Blancos.
CB: Filipe Kasmirski (Atletico Madrid)
Kasmirski was an energetic presence on the for Atletico in their narrow win over Real Sociedad, with the 27-year-old tirelessly bombing forward whenever the opportunity arose to support his side's attacks, whilst at the same time not neglecting his defensive duties.
The former Deportivo La Coruna player's accurate crosses also proved to be a constant thorn in the side of Sociedad and he surely would have got himself a few assists in this game if his forwards had been more clinical in front of goal.
CM: Michel (Levante)
In a dull and turgid match between Getafe and Levante where chances for both sides were far and few between, it took a spectacular strike from substitute Michel to secure all three points for Levante, and ensured the fans at the stadium would at least get their money's worth.
Picking up a loose ball from just inside the Getafe half, Michel took a touch to set the ball up before firing in a looping 35-yard strike which nestled into the top corner of the net and left Getafe custodian Miguel Angel Moya grasping at thin air.
CM: Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona)
Fabregas certainly did his chances of fulfilling his wish of getting more first-team football a world of good with a superb performance against Deportivo. The former Arsenal player helped set the mood for the thrilling game as early as the third minute, setting up left-back Jordi Alba to score the opening goal with a wonderful weighted through pass.
Fabregas was involved once more in the Blaugrana's third goal, cleverly setting up Messi with a back-heel which the imperious Messi finished with aplomb. The Fabregas-Messi combination was on show again for Barcelona's fourth goal, with the former assisting the latter once again, and the understanding the two players have developed with each other will certainly gave Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova something to think about when selecting his team for future games.
LW: Joan Verdu (Espanyol)
Verdu was one of the key figures in Espanyol's hard fought 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano, with the 29-year-old playmaker pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch for the Periquitos. The former Barcelona player's passing range and vision was apparent in this game and the Vallecano midfield had a tough time trying to contain the effervescent midfielder.
Unsurprisingly, Verdu was the hero for Espanyol as he scored his side's first goal, calmly finishing past Vallecano custodian Ruben Martinez after having been set up by Victor Sanchez's defence-splitting pass. Verdu then scored his side's second goal with a predatory effort early in the second half, and his commendable efforts in front of goal have earned him a spot in our La Liga Team of the Week.
RW: Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Sevilla may have Negredo to thank for scoring a brace as Los Rojiblancos eked out a 3-2 win over Real Mallorca but it was Navas who was the inspirational spark for Míchel González's side. The Spanish winger tormented the Mallorca defence with his dribbling throughout the game, creating numerous opportunities for his team-mates whilst also getting himself into good scoring positions.
It was no surprise that Navas had a huge part to play in Sevilla's victory, as the 26-year-old sent in an accurate cross into the box in the 74th minute for Cicinho to head home what proved to be the winning goal.
ST: Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)
By his lofty standards, Falcao was having an stinker in front of goal, with the usually clinical Colombian striker wasting several gilt-edged chances to put his side in front. However, like all great football players, Falcao showed that he should never be written off despite being having an off-day and proved again why he is one of the most highly sought after strikers in the world with a moment of magic to win the game for his side.
The game looked likely to be headed for a draw with both sides remaining goal-less after 89 minutes, but the 26-year-old ensured that his side would keep pace with league leaders Barcelona by scoring a beautifully curled free-kick from 25-yards out which went past the reach of Sociedad goalkeeper Zubikarai to win all three points for his side .
ST: Alvara Negredo (Sevilla)
Despite playing arguably the better football, Sevilla found themselves trailing to Mallorca but Negredo soon levelled things up for his side with a predatory instinct as he pounced on a loose ball in the box to poke the ball home.
With Sevilla going behind once again soon after, Negredo came to the fore for his side once again in the 56th minute to even the scores, with the 27-year-old's run into the box being failed to be picked up by the stagnant Mallorca defence, leaving the former Real Madrid player the simple task of nodding home Cicinho's cross.
ST: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
I have long run out of superlatives to describe Messi's brilliance, and no matter what you think about the diminutive Argentina international, no one can deny that his inspired display against Deportivo was one of the best individual performances in the La Liga so far this season.
The 25-year-old looked lively right from the start and was involved in almost everything good the Blaugrana did; his first notable contribution for the night was to set up Cristian Tello to score Barcelona's second goal of the game. Messi then added his name to the scoresheet with a powerful low drive from just outside the penalty box, before clinically netting his second of the night following good combination play with Cesc Fabregas. And the Ballon d'Or recipient finally completed his hat-trick, and scored what proved to be the winning goal, in typical fashion, dribbling through the Deportivo defence before placing the ball accurately into the bottom right corner.