SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman emphasised the importance of easing the scoring burden on Lionel Messi after his side hammered Real Sociedad 6-1 away from home in La Liga on Sunday with four different goalscorers.
Messi did manage to net twice to take his tally to 23 league goals this season but fellow strikers Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele also got on the scoresheet while right back Sergino Dest scored a brace of his own.
"It's always important for players other than Leo to score goals. That way it's much harder to defend against us," Koeman told reporters.
The Dutch coach has criticised his side after a number of games this season for not being clinical enough in front of goal but had no complaints after they scored six times with 10 attempts on target against Sociedad, who are fifth in La Liga.
"In a difficult game like this one it's vital you are effective in the box and it's also crucial to go in front to ensure your opponents leave you more space. Once we went ahead we really punished them," he said.
"The most important thing today was the image we gave, it proved that we will go all out to try and win everything we can."
Barca head into the international break trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by four points while they are two points ahead of Real Madrid in what looks set to be a thrilling three-way tilt for the title with 10 games remaining.
Koeman added: "Every game from now on for us, Atletico and Real will be difficult. It's going to be very exciting until the end of the season and we just have to keep on playing as we are."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)