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Spanish LaLiga Report: Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, 04 March 2018

05 March 2018, 12:19 | Stacy Ballard

Spanish LaLiga Report: Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, 04 March 2018


He is also the top scorer in the history of Barcelona and Argentina.

Atletico's miserly defence has laid the foundation for their title charge, conceding a mere 11 goals in 26 LaLiga games, but the form of reported Barcelona target Antoine Griezmann has breathed fire into their ambitions.

While Iniesta apparently struggled with right thigh discomfort after an early contact with Sime Vrsaljko, Messi got Barcelona on the scoreboard with a superb free kick that Oblak's best effort could not block at the right high corner.

For all Barca's dominance of possession in the opening 20 minutes, the only clear sight of goal came at the end of some trademark Messi magic. Their season total for goals in La Liga is only 45.

"Costa brings all we expected from him - ambition, hard work passion and attacking power which gives us more possibilities", he said.

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A hat-trick against Sevilla last Sunday was quickly followed by a four-goal haul against Leganes three days later.

Valverde will be keen on silencing their critics and getting a comprehensive win to quell all talks of a collapse.

Messi's first-ever Barcelona goal arrived back in 2005 against Albacete and he became the club's all-time leading goalscorer in 2015 when he overtook Paulino Alcantara, who netted 369 goals for the Catalan side between 1912 and 1927.

Both teams adopt slightly different versions of the 4-4-2, with Atletico playing Partey and Saul in the centre of midfield, allowing Koke to play from the left and offering defensive cover, while Angel Correa does the same from the right. Griezmann has benefited from the return of Diego Costa.

The rest of the half was a picture of Barca dominance, interrupted only by the injured Iniesta being replaced by Andre Gomes and a handful of minor skirmishes, the most noteworthy of which saw Messi hack down Filipe Luis and earn a yellow card. With Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets taking their places in the centre, Paulinho provides the team with size and physicality, especially in the bigger matches, offering them another dimension. But we will prepare for it as if it's our last game, as if it's a final.

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