Lionel Messi's importance hailed by Barcelona's Valverde

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Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on Lionel Messi, who scored with four minutes remaining to lift Barcelona to victory on Sunday.
Ernesto Valverde heaped praise on Lionel Messi, who scored with four minutes remaining to lift Barcelona to victory on Sunday.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said having Lionel Messi "is always a huge advantage" after his match-winning performance against Atletico Madrid.

Messi scored a stunning 86th-minute winner to lead Barca past Atletico 1-0 and back to the LaLiga summit on Sunday.

Barca were far from their best against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano, but another moment of magic from talisman Messi ensured the LaLiga champions leapfrogged Real Madrid in the standings.

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Asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi post-match, Valverde told reporters: "In games which are even and hard, to have Leo is always a huge advantage."

While Barca were second best to Atletico for periods of the blockbuster showdown in Madrid, Valverde was happy with his team.

"I liked everything. We suffered at the start and we've got the three points," Valverde said. "We don't have to think about the bad things now."

Valverde added: "You have to suffer here but we have won and picked up three really important points, which is what is important.

"We expected Atletico to start as they did. We had to be strong in the first 20 minutes. They were doing damage on every attack. As the game went on, we got more control and both sides had clear chances. We had the better of the second half." 

Valverde also allayed injury concerns over Gerard Pique, who was forced off with seven minutes remaining in the Spanish capital.

"I think he's OK," the Spaniard said. "He could have carried on, but better not to risk him."

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