Thomas Partey features as Atletico Madrid suffer defeat at leaders Barcelona

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Lionel Messi scored the only goal of the game.

Lionel Messi proved the matchwinner for Sunday's 1-0 triumph. Messi was on a free-kick hat-trick having scored free-kick goals in his last two games.

In his 747th appearance for Barcelona, he has now netted 539 times, while for Argentina he has found the target on a more modest 61 occasions in 123 outings. But despite his glittering trophy cabinet for club, the five-time Ballon d'Or victor has not managed to claim any silverware for his country.

It was also a first defeat for Atletico boss Diego Simeone in 13 encounters with Valverde.

"Little by little we have been moving forward", Valverde explained.

If Barca are already planning for life with Griezmann, it's a sign they will provide a strong test of Atletico's resolve to keep their best player beyond this summer.

He famously brought up 500 goals for Barca during last April's Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring the stoppage-time victor as the Catalans beat Real Madrid 3-2.

Their UEFA Champions League last-16 second-leg against Chelsea will take place on March 14 and the Spanish Cup final clash against Sevilla comes up next month. They were a whopping 17 points ahead of their bitter rivals, Real Madrid.

The reverse fixture, played back in October at the Wanda Metropolitano, saw Barcelona come from behind to hold Atletico Madrid to a 1-1 draw.

That frustration summed up Atletico's day as their hopes of a second LaLiga title under Simeone suffered a significant blow, with 11 matches of the league season now remaining.

"It was hard to get [the win] because they have a great defence".

That would have set up a frantic finale, but Barca are made of stern stuff and Sunday's success means it is 21 wins and six draws for Ernesto Valverde's side in La Liga this term.

Messi's free-kick was enough to stretch Barca's lead at the top of the table to eight points. Without the ball, Atletico failed to press with intent and looked lethargic at times to close down the gaps for the Barcelona players to operate.

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