Seville: Argentine superstar Lionel Messi produced another brilliant hat-trick to pilot Barcelona to a 4-1 victory over Real Betis on Sunday in Seville.

Messi's incredible treble pushed Barcelona closer to the La Liga title as they moved 10 points clear of Atletico Madrid with 10 more games remaining.

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This was Messi's second hat-trick in a month in Seville and overall 51st of his illustrious career. Even the rival Real Betis fans doffed their hats to Messi's skills.

“We had a great opportunity to increase the gap on Atletico,” Messi said. “We had to take it tonight.”

With the opposition appreciating his efforts, Messi expressed his gratitude towards them and said, "I don’t remember the opposition cheering me for a goal, I am very grateful."

Former England international Gary Linekar called Messi's hat-trick goal as "absurd".

"The hattrick goal is absurd. There are great players, all-time great players, and then there is Messi," he wrote on his Twitter page.

Luis Suarez, whose superb flick set up Messi's second, scored his own brilliant goal after a scintillating solo run but it was ultimately reduced to a footnote, in what became another night all about his Argentinian partner.

The only blot on the night was the sight of Suarez limping off late on, although he was able to walk after the final whistle.

Messi now has 29 league goals this season, 39 in all competitions, and together with Suarez's 18 their joint-total of 47 is more than all but two of the other teams in the division.

A simple finish from Suarez's exquisite assist came between a free-kick perfectly planted into the top corner and a bending lob that grazed the crossbar and dropped in. The Betis fans left at the Benito Villamarin, and most of them were, felt compelled to stand and applaud.

This was supposed to be one of the more awkward tests in Barcelona's run-in, which includes Atletico Madrid at home and fifth-placed Alaves away. All the rest of their opponents currently sit 10th or lower.

But regardless of the fixtures, Barca seem to be saving their best form for the home straight, with Manchester United to come in the Champions League quarter-finals next month.

Ernesto Valverde's side have now lost only once in 16 games. In La Liga, they are unbeaten since November, winning 13 and drawing three since they were last beaten. Already in the final of the Copa del Rey, where Barca will return to this stadium to face Valencia in May, a treble is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

(With inputs from PTI)