Lionel Messi scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season to move clear as the division's top scorer, helping Barcelona return to winning ways in La Liga.
Ronald Koeman made wholesale changes to the side that was held to a 1-1 draw with Cadiz, with Trincao one of five fresh faces. The Portuguese was Barca's most dangerous outlet in the first-half, twice opening up the visitors' defence but repelled by goalkeeper Edgar Badia on both occasions.
Elche - embroiled in a relegation battle - went in level at the break, but had their chances in the opening 45 minutes. The unmarked Lucas Boye went closest when he inexplicably blazed over from point-blank range.
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Francisco Trincao of FC Barcelona shoots during the La Liga Santader match between FC Barcelona and Elche CF at Camp Nou on February 24, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.

Image credit: Getty Images

But Messi took matters into his own hands to give Barcelona the lead, slaloming through a crowd, exchanging passes with Martin Braithwaite before firing past the goalkeeper.
That goal put him one ahead of former team mate Luis Suarez in the race for the golden boot, and Messi soon added a second to put the game beyond the visitors, latching onto Frenkie de Jong's cutback before coolly lifting it over Badia.
Barcelona's commanding second-half display was capped with a third goal, and Messi was involved once again. His absorbing pass found Braithwaite, whose cushioned header set up Jordi Alba's for his second goal of the season, as the Catalans put their recent woes behind them for a morale-boosting win.
The result lifts Barcelona above Sevilla into third, just two points behind Real Madrid and five behind leaders Atletico.

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TALKING POINT - Martin Braithwaite proves his worth

How things can change in football in just a matter of weeks. The Dane would have been lining up for Sam Allardyce's West Brom had the Premier League strugglers had their way in January. Braithwaite has struggled for game time this season and was strongly linked with a loan move to the Hawthorns, but for one reason or another the move didn't work out.

Players of FC Barcelona celebrating after scoring their team's opening goal during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Elche CF at Camp Nou on February 24, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain.

Image credit: Getty Images

With the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele named amongst the substitutes ahead of a crucial match against Sevilla on Saturday, Braithwaite was given another chance to impress at Camp Nou - an opportunity he grabbed with both hands. Not for the first time this term, he proved a formidable partner for Messi, linking up almost telepathically with the Argentine on occasion and registering two assists in a sublime second-half display.
He is far from the complete striker, but on this showing a case can be built that Braithwaite does indeed have a future at Barcelona.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Was barely involved in an underwhelming first-half team performance, but a moment of quality almost immediately after the restart allowed Barcelona to open the floodgates. Messi was operating at third gear for the most part, but was still head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch.

Lionel Messi vom FC Barcelona am Ball

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PLAYER RATINGS

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Mingueza 6, Umtiti 6, Pique 6, Alba 7, Pjanic 5, de Jong 7, Pedri 6, Messi 8, Braithwaite 7, Trincao 6.. subs: Dest 5, Lenglet 5, Griezmann 5, Busquets 5, Dembele 6.
Elche: Badia 7, Barragan 5, Verdu 5, Josema 5, Mojica 5, Cifuentes 5, Mfulu 5, Guti 5, Rigoni 6, Milla 5, Boye 5.. subs: Luismi N/A, Nino 5, Carrillo 5, Morente 5, Fidel 5.

KEY MOMENTS

3' - Save on Trincao! Elche goalkeeper Badia is called into action for the first time this evening! Trincao runs onto a pass and shoots hard and low from a tight angle, but Badia is equal to it!
5' - Chance for Elche! Umtiti makes a mistake in midfield as the visitors race forward. Rigoni pulls a dangerous ball to the back post where there are not one but two attackers unmarked. Boye fluffs his lines, however, scuffing his shot over the bar!
21' - What a chance for Barca! How has Trincao not scored?! Badia made several stops to prevent the Portuguese in the reverse fixture earlier in the season and he's already denied him twice at point-blank range this evening! Trincao squeezes between two defenders as he clears the path for a shot, but the Elche goalkeeper somehow makes the stop!
48' - GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Elche (Lionel Messi): Deadlock broken! Who else but Messi?! He drives forward with frightening pace before feeding Braithwaite, who returns the ball to the Argentine with a delightful back-heel, and Messi does the rest, firing the ball between the goalkeeper to give Barca the lead!
68' - GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Elche (Lionel Messi): That will seal it - it's Messi again! de Jong slaloms his way through a crowd, carrying the ball an awful long way before pulling it back to Messi, who dances his way into the six-yard box and chips it over Badia. As cool as you like!
72' - GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Elche (Jordi Alba): Alba scores his second goal of the season and Barca's third of the night! Messi and Braithwaite are involved again, the former crossing for the latter who cushions a header into the path of Alba to set him up on a plate!

KEY STAT

No player from the top five European leagues has scored more goals (13) than Lionel Messi for Barcelona in 2021 in all competitions.
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