Fresh from his bizarre suspension following the altercation in the Spanish Super Cup final, it was business as usual for Lionel Messi on Wednesday night.
Marking his return in style by scoring Barcelona's equaliser, the sensational South American inspired a late comeback for the Catalonian outfit as they defeated Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey.
Barcelona's next fixture will be a much-anticipated clash with Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou, and Messi will relish the opportunity to immediately avenge Barcelona's late loss and his unexplainable dismissal.
A victory for Ronald Koeman's side is crucial if they are to mount any kind of credible title challenge for league leaders, Atletico Madrid in the latter stages of the season.
Despite the events that unfolded earlier this month, Messi has an incredible track record against Bilbao, and he will be determined to continue this on Sunday.
Let's delve into the numbers.
Messi has played Athletic the fourth-most of any side in his club career - and he has an exceptional background of 26 wins, nine draws and just four losses against the Basque outfit.
Additionally, the prolific forward has returned dozens of goals and assists against the side, his unmatched tally of 26 goals and 11 assists in just 35 games means he has averaged more than one goal contribution in every game he's played. Astounding.
Barcelona have only lost once against Bilbao when Messi has scored - in a first leg fixture of 2015/16 Copa del Rey quarterfinals, avoiding defeat in the other 19.
Although the number-ten has never scored a hat trick of goals against Los Leones, he has scored a trio of assists in a 5-2 away drubbing in the 2014/15 La Liga season.
Messi's red card in the Spanish Super Cup final against Marcelino Garcia Toral's men was the first of his Barcelona career, he'll be hoping to retaliate with his football this time around.
The Argentine has previously scored three braces in the fixture, twice in La Liga and once in Copa del Rey final, could he repeat the feat on Sunday?
Five Best Games
Atletico Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona
Copa del Rey Final
May 30, 2015
Bringing yet another piece of silverware back to Catalonia, a mercurial Messi struck twice in a convincing Barcelona win - including a genius goal for the game's first.
Receiving the ball on the halfway line, Messi unbelievably dribbled through three Bilbao players, evading a fourth as he ran into the box to finish emphatically.
The goal is widely regarded as one of the greatest goals Messi has ever scored and that Spanish football has ever seen, and is still discussed and dissected to this day.
After Neymar doubled the lead before the break, the Argentine bagged the third in the second half, converting an exquisite Dani Alves cross from close range.
Despite a late consolation from Inaki Williams, the tie was already settled as Luis Enrique's side were crowned champions of the cup once again.
Athletic Bilbao 2-5 Barcelona
February 8, 2015
Messi played a huge part in this La Liga fixture - recording one goal and three assists as Barcelona extended their unbeaten streak to nine and continued to breath down the neck of league leaders, Real Madrid.
Fifteen minutes into the game, he opened proceedings when his free kick deflected off the Bilbao wall, subsequently flying into the back of the net, to give the visitors the lead.
He followed this up with assists for Suarez and Neymar either side of an own goal from Oscar de Marcos who carried a shot from the Argentine past his own keeper.
Messi was also heavily involved in his side's fifth in what was a comprehensive victory for Barcelona and a trademark night for the number-ten.
Barcelona 5-1 Athletic Bilbao
December 1, 2012
Another La Liga drubbing. Another Messi masterclass.
A brilliant brace from the Argentinian talisman took him one short of Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year - a record in which he famously surpassed.
His eleventh double of the season was pivotal as his side cruised to a 5-1 thrashing at the Camp Nou
The first was an exquisite lob, beating both the keeper and his retreating defenders, who were unable to keep it out despite their best efforts.
Rounding off intricate interplay with Jordi Alba and Pedro, he cannoned the second home with his right foot to round off a remarkable performance.
Athletic Bilbao 1-4 Barcelona
Copa del Rey final
May 13, 2009
Pitching in with a goal and an assist, a young Messi helped Barcelona fight back from a goal down to win their first Copa del Rey in 11 years.
Guardiola's side went behind within eight minutes before Yaya Toure's equaliser on the half-hour mark was followed by a flurry of second half goals.
Kickstarting the comeback, Messi was on hand to put Barca ahead in the fixture, firing a low shot past Gorka Iraizoz after a scramble in the eighteen-yard box.
Just two minutes later and he had architected the third, playing through Bojan with a defence-splitting pass, who finished with ease.
Xavi rounded off proceedings with a stunning free kick, in one of many successful occasions under the Guardiola regime.
Athletic Bilbao 2-3 Barcelona
January 6, 2021
Messi's other fixture against Bilbao this year went slightly more according to plan, as he carried them to a hard-fought victory in the league.
Following an early opener from Inaki Williams, Barca quickly responded - Messi's ridiculous long-range pass found its way to Frenkie de Jong, whose cross was headed home by the youngster, Pedri.
The 18-year-old turned from goalscorer to provider when he returned the favour for Messi, his audacious backheel pass provided the Argentine with an easy tap in to put the visitors ahead.
Leo added insult to injury in the second half, thumping a well-struck shot off the bar and over the line to ensure the three points for the Catalonian outfit.
Tip of the Fixture
With the antics of the previous fixture and Messi's goal record against Bilbao in mind, Paddy Power are offering 11/1 odds on a Barcelona win and a Messi hat trick.
(Odds correct at time of writing and are subject to change).
By Owen Thompson