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Atletico would beat Barcelona if we had Messi, says Simeone

05 March 2018

"Barcelona wouldn't normally lose four or five games in what they have left", Simeone said.

"He gave us everything we were expecting from him, that's why we were very insisting to get him back with us, he gave us ambition, joy, hard work, passion and obviously an offensive power that gives us more chances to score", Simeone said of Costa. Philippe Coutinho forced an early near-post save from Jan Oblak and Messi hit a free kick into the wall.

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.

Such exploits have evoked memories of their 2013-14 title triumph, when Diego Godin's goal secured a 1-1 final-day draw at Camp Nou to pip Barca to glory. 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.

Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann had been largely peripheral figures for the first 73 minutes and when the pair finally did combine, the France worldwide blazed high and wide from outside the box. "We have to be strong and fight for each ball as if it were the last", he added. Suarez has scored 20 goals and provided six assists to go with the Argentine's 23 goals and 12 assists, accounting for two-thirds of the club's goals in the league.

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The French striker is being lined up for a big-money move in the summer.

The 24-year-old Ghana global arrived at Wanda Metropolitano in 2011 and signed a contract extension for another five years, which keeps him at the club until 2023.

A total of 28 of those have come against Atletico, making them his second-favourite opponent, behind Sevilla. Los Colcheneros did that with great precision, limiting the Catalans' goal attempts, before getting the equaliser through Godin and hanging on to it.

Ernesto Valverde's side now has a comfortable lead with 11 rounds remaining and Barcelona can focus on its round-of-16 second leg match in the Champions League against Chelsea on March 14.

Atletico would beat Barcelona if we had Messi, says Simeone