Messi hits 600th career goal in Barca clash with Atletico

Esther Moore
March 5, 2018

Having drawn three of their last five league outings, the leaders held a five-point advantage coming into Sunday's clash against second-placed Atletico at Camp Nou.

Prior to kickoff, Camp Nou fans gave a standing ovation before a minute's silence in tribute to former Barcelona player Enrique Castro "Quini", who died from a heart attack on Tuesday.

The Argentina global has been the top goalscorer in La Liga since 2015, too, when he surpassed the 59-year record of 251 league goals held by Telmo Zarra with a hat-trick against Sevilla.

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. Jan Oblak got a fingertip to it, but could not keep it out. The French global has scored 15 goals this season. The emergence of Thomas Partey in midfield has provided great thrust and solidity to the team, allowing the likes of Koke and Saul Niguez to shoulder the playmaking burden.

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Atletico have lost just once in the league this season - away to Barcelona's city rivals Espanyol in December.

The France star followed up a hat-trick in the 5-2 win at Sevilla last weekend by scoring every goal in the 4-0 win over Leganes on Wednesday, his alliance with Diego Costa since the latter's return from Chelsea proving particularly potent.

The Catalan giants continued to dictate play in the remaining stages of the first half but they failed to add to their ally and went into break leading by one goal. Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique will have to work hard to win their duels with the Atletico duo if they wish to continue unopposed on their way to the La Liga title.

Barca lead the standings on 69 points after 27 games, Atletico have 61 and champions Real Madrid 54. 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.

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