Diego Simeone warned Atletico Madrid must not relax in a "complex" LaLiga race after a 2-0 win over Huesca moved them back to the top of the table.

Angel Correa's deflected first-half strike and a Yannick Carrasco goal 10 minutes from time at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday sent Atleti three points clear of Real Madrid at the summit.

Atleti thrashed Eibar 5-0 last weekend after picking up only one point from the previous two games against Sevilla and Real Betis.

Simeone knows there can be no let-up from his side in the battle to be crowned champions, with six games to go including a trip to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Cadiz on Wednesday had temporarily nudged Atletico down to second place.

Atletico boss Simeone said: "LaLiga is very complex, we cannot relax, tomorrow we will take care of the Bilbao game."

He added: "There are four teams close to being able to close a great season, Sevilla are doing well, Madrid responded well yesterday and Barcelona are playing now.

"We are to think game by game and we are not going to change now. We think about the next game and we will try to move it forward."

Barcelona won 5-2 against Getafe in Spain's late match on Thursday, after Simeone held his post-game news conference, and Ronald Koeman's side remain very much in the title frame, with a game in hand and a home fixture against Atletico to come next month.

Simeone praised his players for the way they have reacted to slipping up against Sevilla and Betis.

"After Betis I said that the team was in a moment of resistance and is growing after that game," said the former Argentina midfielder.

Simeone reiterated that Atletico's withdrawal from a proposed European Super League was the right decision.

"The day before the decision was made, they already told us what was going to be discussed, it seems like a great decision to me." he said.

Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco were on target as Atletico Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga with a 2-0 win over relegation-threatened Huesca.

Correa struck twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Eibar on Sunday and he opened the scoring at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday with a deflected strike.

Carrasco eased the nerves with a second goal - his third in as many matches - 10 minutes from time to put Atleti three points clear of Real Madrid with six games to go.

Diego Simeone's Atletico side ought to have won by a more emphatic margin a day after they confirmed their withdrawal from the collapsed European Super League.

Yet Dimitrios Siovas should have given Huesca a shock third-minute lead when he shot straight at Jan Oblak from close range after Atleti failed to deal with a free-kick from the left.

Alvaro Fernandez produced a sharp double save at the other end to deny Carrasco and Saul Niguez, and then Correa opened the scoring six minutes before the break.

The in-form forward turned sharply after taking a pass from Marcos Llorente and beat Pablo Insua before finding the back of the net with a deflected left-footed strike.

Atleti picked up where they left off following the interval, with Fernandez making himself big to keep out Koke's effort from close range.

The busy Huesca goalkeeper was called into action again to palm Renan Lodi's drive away for a corner as Simeone's men continued to dominate.

Sergio Gomez came agonisingly close to equalising when his free-kick flashed wide of the post before Fernandez beat away another effort from Niguez.

Carrasco gave Atleti breathing space, tapping in after Llorente unselfishly squared the ball as Huesca appealed for offside. The goal was awarded following a VAR check.

Dani Escriche should have pulled a goal back in the closing stages when he stabbed wide from point-blank range, as Huesca's survival hopes suffered a blow.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the LaLiga giants are lucky Lionel Messi is still at Camp Nou after the superstar captain equalled Xavi's record for the most appearances in club history.

Messi capped his historic 767th appearance – across all competitions to move level alongside Xavi – with two goals and an assist in Barca's 4-1 rout of bottom side Huesca on Monday.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi made history with his stunning opening goal – becoming the first player in LaLiga history to score 20 times in 13 consecutive league campaigns.

Messi has scored 21 goals in LaLiga this season, with 14 of those netted since January 1, and Koeman hailed the 33-year-old, who has been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

"I think Messi has shown that he's the best," Koeman said post-match in Barcelona.

"The first goal was fantastic. He deserves to be important for this team.

"No more can be said [about him]. The level he's been at for so many years, for so many games. He's the most important man in the club's history.

"Luckily he's still with us."

No other player has scored more goals from outside the box than Messi in the top five European leagues (seven) this season.

"It's important [to score from outside the area]," Koeman added. "For teams that defend with so many players in the box, it's important to finish off the moves.

"You have to shoot. In general, we were good tonight. We've been trying these shots in training."

Messi has been involved in eight goals in three games against Huesca in LaLiga (four goals and four assists), including four goals and three assists in his two league appearances against them at the Camp Nou.

Barca, meanwhile, closed within four points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid as they extended their unbeaten streak in the league.

Koeman's Barca have gone 17 games without losing in LaLiga (W14 D3) – the best current undefeated run of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

"I've always said there was a lot to play for," Koeman said. "It's always hard for any team to hold out.

"After all the points we dropped, I think we've reacted well.

"The team are in good shape and we're fighting. We can't lose any more points because we've already dropped quite a few."

Lionel Messi was honoured to equal Xavi's record as Barcelona's all-time leading appearance-maker as he inspired the LaLiga challengers to a 4-1 win over Huesca on Monday.

Messi was the star of the show at Camp Nou, scoring two goals and setting up Oscar Mingueza as rock-bottom Huesca struggled to contend with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

His brace took him to 21 for the season in LaLiga, with 14 of those scored since January 1 – in that time, Messi's 13 goals from open play means he has out-performed his xG value by 6.6.

The first goal of the day secured a slice of history for Messi, who became first player in LaLiga history to net 20 times in 13 successive league campaigns.

Messi also had 124 touches of the ball on Monday, the most he has recorded in a single league game this term, further proof of his exceptional influence.

 

But the most significant stat of all was the fact Messi was playing his 767th game for Barca across all competitions, bringing him level with club great Xavi – he can set a new record at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Reacting to the achievement after the game, Messi wrote on Instagram: "It is a great honour to reach this number of games played for Barcelona.

"Thanks to all of the colleagues who have accompanied me in these years, and to my family and friends for always being by my side."

 

This time last year, Pedri was playing in La Segunda with Las Palmas – now he is a regular alongside Messi in the Barca first-team.

Many are tipping the youngster – who earlier on Monday received his first senior Spain call-up – to have a long and illustrious career at the club, and who knows, potentially even get close to 767 of his own Barca appearances.

But for now, he is just relishing seeing Messi in the flesh, soaking it all in as he paid tribute to the Argentinian.

"I enjoy every game and every training session of Messi," he said. "I try to find him because he is the best and he shows it every game.

"Every time he touches the ball something can happen and that is why I look for him. It is crazy what he is achieving - he is the best in the world."

The win over Huesca moved Barca to within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who have only won two of their previous five league games.

Barca are now second in the table and have not lost since early December.

Lionel Messi scored two gorgeous goals befitting the occasion as he moved level with Xavi as Barcelona's all-time record appearance-maker in Monday's 4-1 win over Huesca, moving the Blaugrana up to second in LaLiga.

The Barca captain was playing his 767th match for the club across all competitions and opened the scoring as Ronald Koeman's men closed the gap on leaders Atletico Madrid to four points, though there were a few scares along the way.

Messi's sumptuous effort got the ball rolling, as Barcelona's talisman became the first player in LaLiga history to net 20 goals in 13 successive campaigns, and Antoine Griezmann scored an arguably even better effort soon after for his 150th top-flight strike.

A farcical penalty allowed Huesca to pull one back through Rafa Mir, who also inexplicably wasted a remarkable opportunity in the wake of Oscar Mingueza making it 3-1, and Messi finished them off towards the end with another fine goal.

The game was just 13 minutes old when Messi made his mark, effortlessly bending a 20-yard effort around Alvaro Fernandez and into the top-left corner via the crossbar.

Jordi Alba almost made it 2-0 just past the half-hour when his shot from a tight angle was kept out by the frame of the goal, but two minutes later Griezmann picked out the same corner as Messi but from about 10 yards further out – his first league goal since the end of January.

Huesca got themselves a lifeline in bizarre circumstances just before the break, Mir converting a penalty after Marc-Andre ter Stegen was deemed to have fouled him when essentially brushing the striker's shin with his hand, the ball having flashed past both of them.

Barca restored the two-goal lead early in the second period, Mingueza getting his head to a Messi to open his account for the senior side.

Huesca should have reduced the deficit again a few moments later, though, as Mir somehow nudged the ball over the goal from under the crossbar with his chest after latching on to Dani Escriche's header across goal.

Messi capped off a wonderful individual display with his second goal in the 90th minute, receiving Francisco Trincao's pass and elegantly picking out the bottom-left corner from just outside the box.

Lionel Messi became the first player to score 20 LaLiga goals in 13 successive campaigns as he found the breakthough superbly against Huesca on Monday.

It was already a historic outing for Messi, who equalled Xavi's all-time record of 767 Barcelona appearances.

And the 33-year-old moved on to 20 goals in 25 top-flight appearances this season by clipping home a superb strike from the edge of the box, via the underside of the crossbar after 13 minutes at Camp Nou

No other player has scored 20 or more times in the competition in 13 seasons in a row.

Indeed, Messi was the only player to have hit 20 goals in 12 consecutive LaLiga campaigns – a feat he achieved that by netting in a 4-0 win over Mallorca in June 2020.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman lauded "incredible" Lionel Messi as the superstar captain prepares to equal Xavi's historic appearance record.

Messi is one game away from matching Xavi as the players with the most games in Barcelona's history – 767 – ahead of Monday's LaLiga clash against Huesca.

Barca's Messi, who already holds the record for most trophies (34) and goals (658) in club history at Camp Nou, equalled Barca's all-time LaLiga appearances mark set by Xavi last month.

To date, Messi has featured in 509 LaLiga matches, while playing 149 Champions League fixtures, 79 Copa del Rey games, 20 in the Supercopa de Espana, five in the Club World Cup and four in the UEFA Super Cup.

"Well it is an incredible number of games," Koeman told reporters. "That also shows what Xavi did for the club, and now Messi will equal the number games of Xavi.

"It will be a great day and then the next that will be one more than Xavi achieved with Barcelona. It is incredible because that shows how important he is and was for Barcelona.

"The number of games, the number of goals, the number of hat-tricks, the number of titles.

"Let's hope that we will continue with Leo, winning titles, what he showed and what he did for this club."

The 33-year-old Messi tops LaLiga's goalscoring charts this season with 19 as Barca look to close within four points of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has warned against complacency as his side look to cut the gap to Atletico Madrid with victory over rock-bottom Huesca on Monday.   

The Catalan giants have not lost in LaLiga since they slipped to a 2-1 defeat away at Cadiz on December 5.   

Indeed, their run of 16 top-flight games without defeat – which has included 13 wins – is the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major European leagues.   

Atleti were held to a 0-0 draw by Getafe on Saturday, giving Barca the opportunity to get within four points of the league leaders if they overcome Huesca at Camp Nou.   

Koeman, though, is taking nothing for granted and wants his side to be fully focused, despite facing opponents who have recorded just one win in their last 20 away league games in the top flight.   

"First we have to win tomorrow, but we are closing the gap," Koeman told the media.

"It [the unbeaten run] is a demonstration that we have improved, but there are no easy games. Those from below fight not to be relegated and those from above, to qualify for Europe.  

"You don't have to look at the table but go to win every game. We can't fail any more. Atletico Madrid is going strong and Real Madrid is there too. You have to go game by game."  

He added: "I have always said that it is a very long season. The points that Atletico have obtained is not normal.  

"Atletico is very competitive. They haven't lost much either. They lacked effectiveness yesterday and had the match to win. In Getafe, they had many clear opportunities. It is a very strong team and you have to fight until the last match. 

"Our trajectory since the away defeat to Cadiz has been good." 

Barca were dumped out of the Champions League in midweek by Paris Saint-Germain despite taking 21 shots to the Ligue 1 side's seven in the second leg, with Lionel Messi missing a crucial penalty with the score at 1-1 in Paris.  

Koeman was impressed by what he saw but wants his side to make sure they have a clinical edge in front of goal. 

"It is the maximum that can be asked of the players," he added. "The level of the other day but with greater effectiveness. 

"If we analyse this season, where we have lost unnecessary points it has been for not having the effectiveness for a team like Barcelona.  

"They even told me that in the 6-1 comeback [against PSG in 2017] there weren't as many opportunities as we had in Paris." 

Raphael Varane was Real Madrid's unlikely hero as he scored twice in a 2-1 comeback win over LaLiga basement boys Huesca.

Under-fire head coach Zinedine Zidane looked to rally his players with a defiant media briefing on Friday but they were often lacklustre El Alcoraz, with Javi Galan brilliantly giving Huesca the lead in the midst of a five-minute spell after half-time where they hit the crossbar twice.

Karim Benzema waged an at-times lone battle to get Madrid back into the match and countryman Varane converted the rebound when his 55th-minute free-kick spun up off the crossbar.

Alvaro Fernandez made a string of magnificent saves to frustrate the tireless Benzema, but Varane was on hand six minutes from time to close the gap at the top of the table to seven points - although Atletico Madrid have two games in hand.

Eden Hazard should recover from his latest injury setback in "two or three weeks", according to Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

A damaged rectus femoris muscle in his left leg initially led to concerns that Hazard could be sidelined for up to six weeks, making him a doubt for both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Atalanta.

However, the Belgium international should recover in half that time, meaning he could have a chance of featuring in the first leg against Atalanta in Bergamo on February 24.

Hazard has already had two spells out with muscular issues this season, while he also missed time after a positive coronavirus test.

"The best Hazard is exactly what we want, we want to see a fully fit Hazard – we look at how tough it's been for the football player, [who] wants to prove how good he is and wants to play for Real Madrid," said Zidane ahead of Saturday's LaLiga meeting with Huesca.

"It's not an easy time for the footballer. I'm sure it's a matter of time before we see him back playing and hopefully he won't pick up another injury.

"Hopefully, when he recovers, we see the best Hazard, maybe in two or three weeks when he recovers.

"I think it's a bit of bad luck. It's not been easy on the player. We have to maintain a positive attitude. He's a great player, we need him back 100 per cent."

He added: "Do you think he's happy with what's going on? Well, no. He's doing what he can to be in good shape, but you know in the life of a player you can be injured.

"We'll have to look at maybe changing something and improve this situation. He's the first player who wants to be fine, of course."

Madrid have been without captain Sergio Ramos for the past three games due to a knee injury and they will have to become accustomed to his absence if he does not extend his contract beyond this season.

Ramos has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, and Zidane reiterated his hope that Madrid could reach an agreement with the 34-year-old.

"I don't know anything. I don't think anyone really knows what the current situation is," said Zidane.

"Hopefully it's something that gets sorted out and that Sergio can continue being a part of the club, and a captain."

Martin Odegaard was allowed to leave during the latest transfer window, with the Norway international joining Arsenal on loan for the rest of the campaign.

Zidane was reluctant to let Odegaard go but sanctioned the switch at the player's insistence.

"The footballer wanted minutes, wanted to leave the club. We had two or three conversations," said the Madrid boss.

"He's a footballer who wanted to try elsewhere. It was the player who requested this move, I was of course in the know.

"I thought maybe the player could have stayed here, fought for a place in the first team. I wanted him to come back to the club because he's a talented player.

"I think the player wanted to go out on loan, get more minutes. The important thing is he's happy, we're happy too. It's good for both parties."

Zinedine Zidane led a Real Madrid training session for the first time since contracting coronavirus, while club president Florentino Perez has tested positive for COVID-19.

Madrid head coach Zidane was forced to undergo a period of self-isolation and has not been in the dugout since the shock 2-1 defeat to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey two weeks ago.

Since then, Los Blancos have beaten Deportivo Alaves 4-1 and suffered a surprise 2-1 loss against Levante in LaLiga.

Madrid have slipped to third and sit 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who still have a game in hand, but Zidane has a full week to prepare for their next outing against Huesca on Saturday.

Although Zidane was back on the training pitch, Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde were only with the group for part of the session.

Dani Carvajal trained indoors while Nacho Fernandez remained at home after testing positive for COVID-19, a fate shared by Madrid president Perez.

A brief club statement read: "Real Madrid would like to inform that our president Florentino Perez has tested positive in the COVID-19 tests that he periodically undergoes, although he is not showing any symptoms."

Even in these extraordinary times, Barcelona letting Luis Suarez go to Atletico Madrid is starting to look like the oddest decision of the season.

Suarez's double over Eibar on Thursday secured a 2-1 victory for the league leaders, who are seven points clear at the top with a game in hand over champions Real Madrid in second.

The Uruguay star, who has netted six in his past six league games for Atleti, is joint-top of the division's scoring charts alongside former team-mate Lionel Messi.

It seems increasingly likely that Suarez, and certainly Atletico, will be at the top of the tree come the end of 2020-21.

With the majority of sides having now played half of their matches, the Stats Perform AI team have run the numbers to simulate how the rest of the LaLiga campaign will play out – and it's good news for Diego Simeone.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

 

ATLETICO WIN AT A CANTER

Atletico have been given a 75.1 per cent chance of winning LaLiga, according to the model.

Simeone's men are predicted to finish on 86 points, nine clear of the rest of the field. They are given just a 17.8 per cent chance of coming second and dropping outside the top four is considered practically impossible.

Barcelona and reigning champions Real Madrid are predicted to end with 77 points apiece, with just a 12.4 per cent chance each of pipping Atleti to the title. Madrid have a 41 per cent chance of finishing second, slightly above Barca's 39.4, having beaten Ronald Koeman's side 3-1 in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou last October.

Those two are, at least, very likely to end up in a Champions League place. They are expected to be joined there by Sevilla, who have a 47.8 per cent chance of finishing fourth on 65 points, just three above Villarreal and six clear of Real Sociedad. The remaining European spot is predicted to be a close battle between Granada, Getafe and Real Betis, with Diego Martinez's men odds on to snatch it.

Valencia fans might be enduring a difficult time (again), and our sim has Los Che missing out on European football once more, if only by four points. That said, they still have a 3.6 per cent chance of a Europa League spot, which is better odds than those given to Supercopa de Espana winners Athletic Bilbao.

 

WOE FOR HUESCA

At the other end of a relatively tight table, in which just 11 points will separate seventh from 16th, it looks like Huesca are in for a tough run-in. They are given a 59.7 per cent chance of finishing bottom of the pile and just a 5.1 per cent shot at avoiding relegation, having won only once so far this term.

Osasuna are predicted to end up just four points above them, with the bottom three likely to be completed by Deportivo Alaves, although Elche will also be right in the mix. In fact, with those two tipped to finish level on 39 points, survival could come down to their head-to-head record, making their showdown on May 11 potentially decisive. Elche have the advantage there, having won the reverse game 2-0 away from home.

Real Valladolid are expected to have just enough to stay out of trouble, although they have scant room for manoeuvre, with our predictor giving them an equal 15.1 per cent chance of finishing 17th and 18th.

Eibar and Cadiz are looking likely to stay safe; indeed, Jose Luis Mendilibar's men, along with Celta Vigo and Athletic, are given a 0.1 per cent chance of gatecrashing the top four. They might well have boosted those odds this week were it not for that pesky Suarez.

Ronald Koeman said Barcelona were missing a number nine as they scored just once from 20 shots on goal in a 1-0 victory over Huesca, and called for the club to sign a new striker.

Lionel Messi returned to the Barcelona side after recovering from an ankle injury and Koeman opted to play him in attack alongside Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele.

The trio attempted 15 shots between them but it was Frenkie de Jong who scored the decisive goal, volleying Messi's chipped pass into the net after 27 minutes.

Koeman, who sent on Antoine Griezmann for Braithwaite nine minutes from time, admitted that he lacks a natural striker to lead the line in between the creative talents of Messi and Dembele.

"I trust each player in our squad," Koeman told reporters. "But if we choose to have three midfielders there is room for three forwards.

"With Leo we bet on someone with great depth like Dembele, and we have to choose between Martin or Antoine at the top and Martin has done it.

"It's a nine that we're missing in these games but it doesn't mean anything in regards to Antoine's substitution. We have a lot of games and we need all the players.

"We have said several times, at the beginning of the season, that we need someone at the top to have more competition and more goals, more effectiveness, but this depends on many things."

Koeman indicated that he believes improving his striking options will help reduce the pressure on Barcelona's defence, which absorbed waves of Huesca attacks as the hosts sought an equaliser late on at El Alcoraz.

Barcelona were on target with just seven of their 20 shots at goal and Koeman said they must close games out earlier to avoid nervous late spells.

"The second half was not so brilliant," admitted Koeman.

"In the end we suffer a little because they have tried to create and there have been crosses where we have defended well. If you don't close out the game earlier, you always suffer."

Looking ahead to LaLiga clashes with Athletic Bilbao and Granada, and a Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Sociedad, Koeman added: "This month is very important for our aspirations because we have many away games and if we win them I think we can fight.

"We have come out strong, very focused, and that is the main base we need. If we have those two things we will improve with the ball and if we can also improve in front of goal we can have a very important and good year."

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen called upon his team-mates to raise the quality of their performances late in games after they earned a narrow victory over LaLiga strugglers Huesca.

Frenkie de Jong scored a first-half volley that proved decisive at El Alcoraz but Ter Stegen had to be alert to keep Rafa Mir from equalising as the division's bottom club were allowed to attack in the second half.

Ter Stegen acknowledged that Barcelona's display improved on their showing in a 1-1 draw with Eibar last time out in LaLiga, but called for more hard work to put the Blaugrana back in contention for a place in the top three.

"For 35 minutes we did very well, we played very good," Ter Stegen told the club's official website.

"We had a lot of possession, we pressed them high, when we lost the ball we were directly right in front of them to keep on going. We made it very difficult for them to come out from the back.

"We have to improve, that's what I think, overall in the last minutes so that we don't suffer as much. I think it's not needed.

"But we won the game which is very important and we move forwards."

Ter Stegen paid tribute to De Jong, who scored his second LaLiga goal of the season to equal the number he scored in the whole of 2019-20.

"I'm super happy for him, it's not that often that he scores. I hope he continues like this, and for me and the whole team it's nice to have a clean sheet for the restart and I'm really happy for us as a team," he said.

De Jong, who arrived at Camp Nou in a €75million transfer from Ajax in mid-2019, credited the fine chipped pass from Lionel Messi for giving him the opportunity to net his fourth goal for the club.

He said: "Especially in games like this when they close a lot and they are going backwards, all of their team almost, it's important to make these runs into the box as a midfielder.

"Leo gave me a great pass and I could score."

Asked whether scoring the club's first goal of 2021 holds significance for him, De Jong said: "I try to score a bit more but I don't think it means something, no."

Barcelona moved into LaLiga's top five after Frenkie de Jong's goal clinched a 1-0 victory over bottom club Huesca in Lionel Messi's 500th league appearance for the club.

Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman, who warned before the game that defeat would all but end his side's title challenge, saw a much-improved Barcelona performance as he earned back-to-back LaLiga away wins for the first time in his tenure.

Messi came back into the side after missing Barca's disappointing 1-1 draw with Eibar due to an ankle injury and was at his talismanic best, deftly assisting De Jong's volleyed goal after just before the half-hour mark.

Huesca did open the visitors up on occasion and it remains to be seen whether Koeman can restore some consistency and style to this team, but they did enough here to climb above Sevilla in the table.

Barcelona's early pressure paid off after 27 minutes when Messi played an exquisite chipped pass into the box, where De Jong evaded two defenders and guided the ball into the corner of the net from six yards on the volley.

Messi would have capped a fine first-half performance with a superb goal five minutes from the interval had Alvaro Fernandez not pulled off a spectacular save, palming his dipping 20-yard free-kick over the crossbar.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner flashed a fierce effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box early in the second period, before Marc-Andre ter Stegen got down well to prevent Rafa Mir's close-range shot from becoming the equaliser.

Ousmane Dembele should have put the game beyond doubt when he went one-on-one with Fernandez 13 minutes from time, but the Huesca goalkeeper saved at his feet and then denied Messi again before full-time.

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