Foreign round-up: Eight-goal Barcelona in good nick ahead of El Clasico

BARCELONA set themselves up nicely for next Monday's eagerly-awaited El Clasico when they ran out 8-0 winners away to hapless Almeria on Saturday night.

Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick in a victory which led to the swift sacking of Almeria coach JuanManuel Lillo, a good friend of Barca manager Pep Guardiola's.

Despite the win, however, Barca remain a point behind Real Madrid who cruised to a 5-1 win at home to Athletico Bilbao, with Cristiano Ronaldo also hitting a treble.

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The former Manchester United player was unfazed by the nature of victory enjoyed by Real's bitter rivals ahead of next week's showdown at Camp Nou.

"(The 8-0 win) doesn't tell me anything," Ronaldo said.

"Let's see if they score eight against us on Monday. I'm pleased to have scored but the most important thing is that the team won. I'm fighting to win the league. The top scorer's award isn't important to me."

In Italy, AC Milan continue to set the pace after a superb goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic was enough to secure a 1-0 win at home to Fiorentina at the San Siro. There was further good news for the Rossoneri yesterday when city rivals Inter crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Chievo to slip nine points off the pace and leave manager Rafa Benitez under severe pressure.

Inter have now taken only four points from their last four games and their woes were compounded when Samuel Eto'o was sent off for headbutting.