Barcelona Messi
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Real Betis in their La Liga gameReuters

Lionel Messi marked his 500th game for Barcelona with a goal as the Catalan club strolled to a 4-0 victory over Real Betis in the La Liga on Wednesday.

With Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both picking up wins in earlier games, Barcelona, down to third at kickoff, was under pressure to perform, and they did just that despite being in second gear for much of the 90 minutes.

The 4-0 victory also capped off what has been an absolutely brilliant 2015 for the club, which saw them clinch the La Liga, Copa Del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup titles.

Barcelona could have opened the scoring from a penalty, won by Messi, but Neymar hit the woodwork from his spotkick. Betis defender Heiko Westermann, though, put the ball into his own net in the 29th minute to get the goalscoring ball rolling, with Messi grabbing his customary goal in the 33rd minute off a setup from Neymar.

Luis Suarez then went top of the La Liga scoring standings with his 14th and 15th goals of the campaign to ensure Barcelona would end 2015 in the perfect manner.

"It was a strange game, complicated," Messi told the club's official website after scoring his 425th goal for Barcelona on Wednesday. "We found it tough to pick up the pace of the game, which is always hard after a few days of vacation. But we did the most important thing, which was to win."

The win took Barcelona back to the top of the table, level on points with Atletico Madrid and two points ahead of Real Madrid. However, Barca do have a game in hand and that could prove to be crucial in the end.

"We are in the middle of the season and what occupies us is to continue working hard to win titles this season," Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano said. "The present and the future is what matters.

"We hope to reach the end of the season fighting for all three titles. I think we are still demonstrating that we intend to continue making history.

"We are prepared for what little rest lies ahead. We have played months like this January and February in previous seasons, so we are used to it. It's a good sign because it means that we are moving in the right direction."

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