Lionel Messi at double as Barcelona make record start
Gerard Pique put the Catalan side ahead after 22 minutes followed quickly by Messi's first, which came off defender Fernando Amorebieta on the line, before Adriano Correia hit the third on the point of half-time.
Cesc Fabregas then added to the deluge of goals and Ibai Gomez got a consolation before Messi struck again.
Barca have now put together 13 wins and a draw from their first 14 matches to beat the previous best start in the Spanish top flight by Real Madrid in the 1991-92 season.
Messi also is now just one goal off Gerd Mueller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.
Barcelona's injury problems at the back have eased so that coach Tito Vilanova was able to rest Carles Puyol with Javier Mascherano playing alongside Pique, but Dani Alves was missing and so Adriano came in at right back.
The home side began at a high tempo but while they pushed Athletic back the visitors kept faith with the coach Marcelo Bielsa's attacking philosophy as they looked to bring the ball out from defence.
Barca had their first sight of goal with a low drive from Andres Iniesta after 12 minutes which keeper Gorka Iraizoz saved comfortably.
They got their breakthrough after a spell of pressure.
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