ONE SHY OF MUELLER: Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scores an exquisite goal with the outside of his boot against Athletic Bilbao at Nou Camp on Saturday. The goal took the Argentine's tally to 84 goals in a calendar year, only one behind German legend Gerd Mueller's record 85 set in 1972.Photo: AFP
Lionel Messi closed in on Gerd Mueller's scoring mark as Barcelona crushed Athletic Bilbao 5-1 to set a new record for the best ever start to a La Liga season and stay 11 points clear of Real Madrid.
Defending champions Real edged city rivals Atletico 2-0 with Cristiano Ronaldo on target to keep their slender hopes of a title repeat alive.
Barca have now put together 13 wins and a draw from their first 14 matches to beat the previous best start set by Real in the 1991-92 season.
"It is great to have achieved this but I am happier still with the performance of my players and that even at 5-1 we continued to keep pressing and trying to score," said Barca coach Tito Vilanova.
Gerard Pique put the Catalan side ahead after 22 minutes followed quickly by Messi's first, which came off defender Fernando Amorebieta on the line, before Adriano Correia hit the third on the point of half-time.
Cesc Fabregas then added to the deluge of goals and Ibai Gomez got a consolation before Messi struck again.
Messi is now just one goal off Mueller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year set for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.
Atletico Madrid, riding high in second place, felt they had their best chance to beat Real Madrid since their last triumph in October 1999 but they rarely threatened.
Atletico's Argentine coach Diego Simeone has brought success based on solidity.
Radamel Falcao got in front of Pepe to prod a Diego Costa pass goalwards but keeper Iker Casillas managed to palm the ball behind.
Ronaldo has had a quiet run by his own high standards without a goal in three games but he responded on 15 minutes with a free-kick from fully 30 yards which nestled in the corner.
Ronaldo blazed wide from the edge of the area after 53 minutes and then set up Mesut Ozil to volley home the second from 15 yards.
The Portuguese also hit the post twice in the closing stages.
Mauricio Pellegrino was sacked as manager of Valencia following his side's 5-2 defeat at home to Real Sociedad.
The game swung on the first half dismissal of Jonas Goncalves with Valencia ahead through Roberto Soldado.
Alberto De la Bella equalised before the break and further goals came from Mikel Gonzalez, Diego Ifran, Imanol Agirretxe and Carlos Vela from the penalty spot while Soldado also got a second.
Getafe 1 (Lopo 57) Malaga 0
Valencia 2 (Soldado 2, 73) Real Sociedad 5 (Alberta De la Bella 44, Gonzalez 57, Ifran 64, Agirretxe 83, Vela 90+1-pen)
Barcelona 5 (Pique 22, Messi 25, 70, Adriano 45+1, Fabregas 57) Athletic Bilbao 1 (Gomez 65)
Real Madrid 2 (Cristiano Ronaldo 16, Ozil 66) Atletico Madrid 0