Barcelona: Barcelona striker Neymar will start his Christmas holidays three days early, announced team coach Tata Martino Wednesday morning.
Neymar, who scored a hat-trick a week ago against Celtic in the Champions League and two goals in his side's win at home to Villarreal Saturday night, was again in form as Barca cruised past Cartagena in the Copa del Rey knockout tournament Tuesday, scoring another goal and producing a performance which had the fans in the Camp Nou Stadium on their feet.
The majority of the Barca squad will begin their Christmas holidays following Sunday's BBVA Primera Liga game away to Getafe Sunday, but as he is suspended after picking up a fifth booking of the season last weekend, Martino has said Neymar can begin his winter break early.
"He is a player who has not had a holiday since the Confederation Cup and if I can give him an extra day holiday, then that is what I am going to do," said Martino, who at the weekend had commented that Neymar had not rested all year and was tired after the Confederation Cup and his season with Santos ahead of his big money move to Spain.
Barca won the tie 7-1 on aggregate and if Wednesday's game, which ended just before midnight, was a slightly low key affair, it at least allowed Martino to give minutes to fringe players such as Cristian Tello and Sergio Roberto and he was content with their response.
"The most positive thing is that we played as seriously as we did," said Martino. "Maybe we were not at our best with our passing, but we played correctly, we respected our rivals and the fans who came to the match. We played as we had to play," he said.
Other results Tuesday produced a surprise as second division Alcorcon fought back from a 2-0 home defeat to Granada to beat their Primera Liga rivals on penalties.
Villarreal won 1-0 in Elche to progress, while Getafe, Osasuna (who will probably face Real Madrid in the next round), and Levante all qualified.
The remaining Copa del Rey matches will be played Wednesday and Thursday night.