Lionel Messi picked up from where he left off before the international break, leading Barcelona to another Spanish league victory.

After struggling with Argentina’s national team yet again, Messi returned to Barcelona and thrived as usual, scoring twice in the team’s 2-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday.

Messi opened the scoring with a free kick in the 71st and sealed the victory from inside the area in the 89th, leaving Barcelona 13 points in front of Atletico Madrid, which visits fifth-placed Alaves later.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi shoots from a free kick to score the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi shoots from a free kick to score the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Messi had scored six goals in his last three matches with Barcelona before the international break, when he couldn’t do much to help Argentina in a 3-1 loss to Venezuela in a friendly last week. He later complained about the constant criticism against him in his homeland, saying that even his 6-year-old son asked why he was being attacked.

There were no complaints from the crowd at Camp Nou Stadium after another great performance by Messi, who leads the league’s scoring with 31 goals, 13 more than his closest competitor, teammate Luis Suarez.

It was the 12th straight win for Barcelona at home in the derby against Espanyol, which dropped to 14th. Barcelona hasn’t lost or drawn a match against Espanyol at Camp Nou since a league match nearly a decade ago. Its only loss to the rival since then was last year in an away game in the Copa del Rey.

Espanyol's Mario Hermoso, right, beats Barcelona's Lionel Messi to the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Espanyol’s Mario Hermoso, right, beats Barcelona’s Lionel Messi to the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

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