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The Blaugrana chief has stressed that the reigning champions deserve respect, while he has also praised Lionel Messi

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu feels Atletico Madrid will prove to be the Catalans' biggest rivals in the race for the Liga title and not arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Atletico finished three points clear of Barcelona in 2013-14 to secure their first league title since 1996 and Bartomeu has stressed that Diego Simeone and his men deserve respect following last term's success.

"We have a lot of rivals in the league, but especially Atletico Madrid, the defending champions," Bartomeu told the official Barcelona website.

"They’ll be a very strong opponent once more and they deserve all of our respect. But then again, so do all of the teams."

The Barcelona chief then went on to praise Lionel Messi in the wake of his match-winning performance in Sunday's 3-0 win over Elche.

"Messi is the best player in the world," he continued. "He’s shown that once again. He scored and he created chances. That’s the Messi we all know."

Barcelona resume La Liga action away against Villarreal on Sunday.


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