Atletico would beat Barcelona if we had Messi, says Simeone

Lawrence Cooper
March 5, 2018

We have become so accustomed to Lionel Messi scoring great goals through his career that we hardly blink when he scores one now; he has an ability to make the extraordinary look ordinary.

The win brings Barcelona's tally to 69 points at the top of the table, eight points ahead of the second-placed Atletico with 11 games to go.

Iniesta now has 10 days to recover before next week's Champions League second leg against Chelsea.

The Argentine is arguably the best player in the world again at the moment, with Cristiano Ronaldo only just hitting top gear after a poor start - the Portuguese is now up to 16 goals in the league.

The build-up to this contest, labelled "the Grand Final" by sections of the Spanish press, was driven by talk of a Barcelona dip following three draws in five league games, with the in-form Atletico primed to move within two points of their rivals.

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Atletico striker Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, who came in with seven goals in two games, was largely anonymous.

For all Atletico's discipline and defensive rigour, one mistake in the 26th minute was all it needed. But Messi put a dent in their title hopes after 25 minutes when he bent a trademark free kick into the top corner.

The only sour note for Barca was losing Andres Iniesta to an apparent hamstring strain in the opening period and, although Atletico improved after the break, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was barely tested, ensuring the day belonged to Messi and Barca.

Oblak parried away Sergio Busquets' first-time volley from a corner soon afterwards and with five minutes remaining Atleti were rightfully denied an equaliser by the offside flag, with Costa straying beyond the last defender in nodding down for substitute Kevin Gameiro to smash home.

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