Thierry Henry sparkles in Barcelona romp
Thierry Henry's hat trick led near-perfect Barcelona past Valencia 4-0 to extend its lead in Spain and stretch its unbeaten run to 20 games on Saturday.
An energized Henry opened in the 20th minute with a quick touch to float in Yaya Toure's long pass on the hop.
Henry ran onto a leading pass from Alexandre Hleb eight minutes later and curled a shot past goalkeeper Renan Soares. Henry's last, in the 79th, was the easiest as he pushed in substitute Bojan Krkic's pass for his seventh league goal.
Asked the secret to his improved form, Henry said, "I don't know. Let's hope it can stay like this, we're enjoying it."
Barcelona's high-scoring attack has notched 44 goals from 14 games to lead Villarreal by six points with 35.
"I'm the first one to be surprised," rookie coach Pep Guardiola said of Barcelona's start before praising Henry. "He was bold tonight, he said 'Here I am."'
Earlier, Giuseppe Rossi scored a late equalizer as Villarreal rallied from a three-goal deficit to draw 3-3 with Getafe, and Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan scored twice each as Atletico Madrid defeated Sporting Gijon 5-2 to stretch its unbeaten run to 12 games.
Real Madrid and Sevilla meet on Sunday with the loser in danger of slipping further in the title race. Two-time defending champion Madrid has 26 points and Sevilla 24, the same as Atletico.
Barcelona has hardly missed suspended striker Samuel Eto'o, who leads the league with 14 goals, as Daniel Alves held off Asier del Horno in the 46th minute to reach Xavi Hernandez's precise through ball and score the third of the game.
"We knew before the result of Getafe-Villarreal so we wanted to win this game," Henry said. "We did it and we did it well."
Xavi hit the post after two minutes while Renan denied clear chances from Lionel Messi and Hleb before coming out to poke away Messi, who came in clear on goal in the 68th.
Barcelona's defence, which has allowed only nine goals, cleared nearly every Valencia threat, with Villa coming closest with a wide header just after Henry's opener. The Spain striker also hit over in the 67th.
Valencia, which lost for the first time on the road, has 27 points.