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

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

This afternoon, at the Camp Nou, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will go head-to-head in a fascinating La Liga encounter.

Barcelona have one hand on the La Liga title after Lionel Messi's sensational free-kick earned them a deserved 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, who saw midfielder Andres Iniesta limp off with a hamstring injury before the break, had played down the importance of the match, claiming it would not be a decider.

A win for Barcelona in this fixture would stretch the lead at the top to eight points, a comfortable margin you feel.

The forward now has 539 goals for Barca and 61 at global level with Argentina.

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.

Antoine Griezmann, with seven goals in his previous two matches, got his first sight of goal in the 75th minute but his shot was wild, flying miles over the crossbar.

Even Messi hit the wall with a poor free-kick and then sent a cross-field switch straight into the advertising boards.

But in the 26th minute, Messi made the breakthrough after he was brought down by Thomas Partey 25 yards out.

Atletico's goalkeeper could do little about the opener five minutes later, however.

It was the third successive league game in which Messi has netted a direct free-kick - the first time he has achieved that feat - and Barca could have had more at the end of a first half in which Atletico failed to muster a shot on target.

Barca continued to turn the screw, Luis Suarez seeing an effort blocked by Jose Gimenez and the Uruguay forward was involved again soon afterwards, combining brilliantly with Philippe Coutinho only for the latter to fire straight at Oblak. Costa, however, had strayed offside and Barca held on for what will surely prove a crucial three points.

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