MADRID (AFP) - Champions Barcelona bushed aside Athletic Bilbao 4-1 on Saturday to return to the top of La Liga and open a three-point gap on Real Madrid who they face next week in 'El Clasico'.
Barcelona have a decisive week ahead of them with the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Arsenal on Tuesday and then a trip to Real four days later.
They enjoyed the perfect preparation on Saturday with three points and a convincing win that puts the pressure on Real Madrid to win at Racing Santander on Sunday.
"Without doubt Tuesday's game (against Arsenal) is the most important of the season," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
"If we progress we can reach the end of the season with the chance to become league and European champions."
The 22-year-old Jeffren Suarez opened the scoring with his first goal of the season on 26 minutes before the 19-year-old Bojan stole the show with a brace either side of the interval.
"I am happy with the goals and three vital points," said Bojan. "Goals always give you confidence and if the coach needs me (against Arsenal and Real Madrid) I am ready."
Lionel Messi scored his 26th goal of the campaign to make it four after 66 minutes and Bilbao were desperate for the final whistle at Camp Nou.
Elsewhere Sevilla ended a run of six league games without a win defeating Tenerife 3-0 to go a point above Real Mallorca into fourth.
First half goals from Frederic Kanoute and Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano put the hosts in control as coach Antonio Alvarez tasted his first win in charge as Sevilla climbed back into the top four.
It was another nightmare roadtrip for Tenerife who are the only side yet to win away from home and lie third from bottom, six points from safety.
With a testing week against Arsenal, against whom they are level 2-2, and Real Madrid to come, Barca coach Guardiola chose to rest Xavi and Thierry Henry while Dani Alves was suspended.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scorer in each of his last four matches, picked up a leg injury in the warm-up - which may rule him out of the Arsenal game - so Bojan came in for only his third start of the season.
Barca went ahead on 26 minutes with Messi releasing Eric Abidal down the left and the Frenchman crossed across the face of goal where Jeffren slid the ball in for his first goal of the season.
Fernando Llorente had a great chance to equalise on 33 minutes but shot over from close range.
With four minutes until the break Barca struck again with a stray pass pounced on by Carles Puyol, who is suspended for the Arsenal game, and the captain set up Bojan who produced a cool finish at the near post.
Bilbao, who beat Real Madrid earlier this season, hit the post early in the second period while Javi Martinez screwed a shot wide when one-on-one with goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Guardiola responded by throwing on playmaker Xavi and the hosts picked up the pace with Bojan curling in a fine effort on 58 minutes and eight minutes later substitute Pedro crossed for Messi to tap in.
Markel Susaeta pulled a goal back for Bilbao.
Real Zaragoza moved seven points clear of the bottom three with a 2-0 home win over relegation rivals Malaga.
Argentine Leo Ponzio scored his first goal of the season to put Zaragoza ahead on the stroke of half-time before Chile international striker Humberto Suazo killed the game off on 75 minutes.
Zaragoza's second successive win sees them jump a point above Malaga into 15th place with Racing Santander, at home to Real Madrid on Sunday, dropping to fourth from bottom, six points above the drop.
for Busquets 54'
for Jeffren 61'
for Y. Touré 76'
|Robben speaks out on injury fears|
|Fiorentina 0 AC Milan 0: Ilicic misses penalty on Montella´s return|
|Gisdol replaces Labbadia at Hamburg|
|Ibrahimovic threatened me over Pogba deal - Raiola|
|Balotelli could make Nice return against Krasnodar|
|Southampton deserved to win – Bilic|
|Podolski takes aim at Mourinho over Schweinsteiger treatment|
|Atletico midfielder Augusto suffers ACL injury|
|Sagna: More to Aguero than goals|
|Errors are urgent matter for Schalke - Weinzierl|
|Puel delighted with sublime Southampton second half|
|Simeone praises ´decisive´ Gameiro|
|Noble: West Ham can´t get any worse|
|Pjanic: I will play wherever Allegri needs me|
|West Ham 0 Southampton 3: Defensive woes pile pressure on Bilic|
|Kondogbia makes the same mistakes often – De Boer|
|Gray backed by Dyche after ban for abusive social media posts|
|Gabriel needs time to get used to Serie A - Ausilio|
|Atletico Madrid´s Gimenez and Augusto doubts for Bayern Munich clash|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Deportivo La Coruna 0: Griezmann downs 10-man Depor|
|Angry Spalletti slams Roma players´ attitude|
|Liverpool have unbelievable quality - Milner|
|Simeone´s son Giovanni scores first Serie A goal|
|Ivanovic: Chelsea let Conte down|
|Inter 1 Bologna 1: Battling Bologna end Inter streak|
|Guardiola: Top-four finish very tough for Man City|
|Rodgers expecting tough test against City and Aguero|
|Zamparini admits Balotelli interested Palermo|
|Former Swansea, Arsenal great Mel Charles dies|
|Asamoah, Rugani ruled out for up to seven weeks|
|Totti reaches 250 Serie A goals in Roma defeat|
|Alves makes LaLiga history as Valencia see off Leganes|
|Guardiola rues De Bruyne injury as Man City await scan|
|Las Palmas draw could prove costly, admits Morata|
|Gabriel explains choosing Inter over Juventus|
|Hamburg dismiss Labbadia|
|West Ham players expect Payet´s free-kick magic - Antonio|
|Man City must tell Guardiola to stop, says Toure´s agent|
|Hamsik thrilled to reach 100 Napoli goals|
|Zabaleta warns Man City over Celtic backlash|
|MLS Review: Red Bulls, Toronto into play-offs|
|´We were unlucky´ - Bale|
|Guardiola keen for Spurs test|
|Rodgers: I never fell out with Sterling|
|Wenger hails ´different´ Walcott|
|Mazzarri backs Deeney for England call-up|
|Mamelodi Sundowns and Zamalek reach CAF Champions League final|
|Benzema and Morata can play together - Zidane|
|Hummels plays down injury fears|
|Las Palmas 2 Real Madrid 2: Zidane´s men held again|
|Stones benefited from Moyes´ Everton exit, says Duffy|
|Allegri unconcerned by scrappy win|
|Montella demands Milan improvement|
|Ancelotti praises Thiago after Hamburg victory|
|Conte demands better attitude from Chelsea|
|Wenger hails stylish Arsenal display|
|Moreno the unlikely subject of Klopp´s praise|
|Walcott: We wanted it more than Chelsea|
|Phelan has ´no qualms´ over another handball red card|
|Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0: Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil pile on misery for Conte|
|That was how football should be - Klopp on Hull thrashing|
|Luis Enrique plans to keep Sergi Roberto on his toes|
|Karanka draws hope from Middlesbrough´s second half|
|Stoke is stitched into my body – Pulis|
|Palermo 0 Juventus 1: Own goal helps champions stay top|
|Hughes laments two ´stolen´ points|
|Wilshere can be a brilliant player for Bournemouth, says Howe|
|Defoe rues Sunderland collapse against Palace|
|Tottenham must be more clinical - Pochettino|
|Everton were second best, says Koeman|
|Benteke: I knew a chance was coming|
|Ranieri wants answers from Leicester players after Old Trafford thrashing|
|Board can call me if they want to talk - Guidolin|
|Sterling hails Guardiola´s impact|
|Sergi Roberto revelling in new role|
|Guardiola wants Aguero improvement despite scoring streak|
|Mourinho demands more from star man Pogba|
|Sporting Gijon 0 Barcelona 5: No Messi, no problem for ruthless champions|
|Stoke City 1 West Brom 1: Rondon snatches point as Pulis reaches 1000 games|
|Sunderland 2 Crystal Palace 3: Benteke´s late header stuns Black Cats|
|Swansea City 1 Manchester City 3: Aguero at the double for Guardiola´s perfect 10|
|Bournemouth 1 Everton 0: Stanislas wonder strike ends Koeman´s unbeaten start|
|Liverpool 5 Hull City 1: Coutinho stunner caps easy win|
|Middlesbrough 1 Tottenham 2: Son shines for Spurs|
|Hamburg 0 Bayern Munich 1: Late Kimmich goal maintains Bayern´s perfect start|
|Bayern facing defensive headache after Hummels limps off at Hamburg|
|Pogba and Mata delighted by United response|
|Vardy and Mahrez were rested for Porto, Ranieri admits|
|Mourinho completely trusts dropped Rooney|
|I beat Usain Bolt in a race - Bolasie|
|Juventus still Scudetto favourites - De Boer|
|Manchester United 4 Leicester City 1: Rooney watches on as Pogba inspires Red Devils demolition|
|Robben and Ribery are like Messi, claims Helmer|
|Pochettino hints at Vertonghen renewal|
|Robben´s style makes him an injury risk - Bayern fitness coach|
|Liverpool refuse to comment on Sakho´s social media outburst|
|Rooney dropped for Leicester City clash|
|Messi injury doesn´t matter to Barcelona - Abelardo|
|Thiago Silva worried by PSG form|
|Mourinho describes Wenger relationship as ´civilised´|
|Milito: Inter are no one-man team|
|Bilic delays naming daughter due to West Ham worries|
|Fernandinho hails ´intelligent´ De Bruyne|
|Matuidi: This season toughest for PSG|
|New York City 4 Chicago Fire 1: Villa nets twice in win|
|Pjaca not Morata - Allegri|
|Guardiola keen for Kolarov extension|
|England criticism changed Rooney - Mourinho|
|Gotze detractors don´t surprise Tuchel|
|Wenger laments missing out on Costa|
|Emery deflects blame from PSG players after Toulouse defeat|
|Guidolin: It´s not possible to beat Manchester City if you don´t play well|
|Mourinho prepared to bench Rooney|
|Fitness fears over Aubameyang with Real Madrid looming|