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Bartomeu: Atletico is Barcelona's main title rival

The Blaugrana chief has stressed that La Liga's reigning champion deserves respect.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has indicated Atletico Madrid will prove to be the Catalans' biggest rival in the race for the Liga title.

Atletico finished three points clear of Barcelona in 2013-14 to secure its first league title since 1996 and Bartomeu has stressed that Diego Simeone and his men deserve respect following last season'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 said. "He’s shown that once again. He scored and he created chances. That’s the Messi we all know."

Barcelona resumes La Liga action at Villarreal on Sunday.