The new Invincibles? Messi genius takes Barcelona to brink of La Liga glory

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The Blaugrana are 27 games unbeaten now in the Primera Division and moved a step closer to the title thanks to the Argentine's fantastic free-kick

It may be the moment that has won La Liga for Barcelona. Lionel Messi stepped up to fire home from a set piece for the third game in a row and ruin all of Diego Simeone's best-laid defensive plans. There is no stopping the astonishing Argentine – and there may be no way to halt this Blaugrana side, either.

Messi's free-kick was a thing of beauty. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner curled the ball up and over the wall and into Jan Oblak's far-left corner. There was nothing the Slovenian goalkeeper could do.

And even though that may be Messi's favourite spot when it comes to free-kicks, lately his set pieces have been even more unpredictable: against Girona last weekend, he fired one under the wall and into the bottom right corner; at Las Palmas on Thursday he hit the top corner on the same side.

The goal was Messi's 600th in an incredible career and it was an important one, too. Atletico arrived at Camp Nou just five points behind Barca in the race for La Liga and a win would have given the Rojiblancos real hope of claiming the title.

But Barca dominated possession and created most of the danger with Messi in monster mode and Philippe Coutinho linking up effectively in midfield. Still, however, it needed the Argentine's divine intervention to seal a vital victory.

Atletico thought they had levelled late in the game when Kavin Gameiro blasted home from close range, but Diego Costa had been in a marginally offside position when he headed on to the French forward.

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.

With an eight-point lead over Atleti now with 11 fixtures remaining, the Blaugrana are surely now in control in the Primera Division. Sunday's win was a significant step towards the title and there was a tangible sense of relief among the home fans as the final whistle went.

Barcelona Atletico score

Now Barca will look to see out the rest of the league season, but there is also the opportunity to finish the campaign with an unprecedented unbeaten run across the 38-game competition.

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Valverde's side still have to travel to Malaga, Sevilla, Celta, Deportivo La Coruna and Levante in La Liga, with home games against Athletic Club, Leganes, Valencia, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad to come.

Some tough fixtures, but many of the most difficult hurdles have already been overcome and with just 13 goals conceded in the Primera Division, plus plenty of Messi magic on tap, Barca look primed to emulate Arsenal's achievement of 2003-04 and go the entire season unbeaten.

The new Invincibles? Messi and Barca are getting closer to another amazing feat. Don't best against them pulling it off. 

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