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Messi has found his partner in Pedri

Atlético, my word! It was another solid performance in Anoeta from them, confirming a certain confidence in their results that only let them down against Real Madrid. It was only that bad day that gave Simeone the legitimacy to say that his side wasn’t favourites for the title, because a win against their neighbours would have us thinking that the LaLiga title door was closed shut, or at least left ajar. This Atleti team is assured with its style and has depth and consistency to the squad. It is a team for the four seasons. Favourites, maybe not, because Madrid are still there and, as Cholo reminds us, we still have 25 or so games to play. But it is Leti who are the big cheese of the championship race at the moment. Los Blancos are also winning plenty, but it's clearly a bigger challenge for them.

Pedri and Messi understanding

After Atleti played, Barça kicked off in Valladolid, in their psychedelic kit and with a new formation: three central defenders, Dest and Jordi Alba released to overlap, Pjanic keeping watch, De Jong with freedom to roam forward, Braithwaite in the hole, and Pedri to partner Messi. Pedri has become the most interesting of the league’s new faces, one of those revelations that is sought each year. He has given glimpses ever since his first appearance and it is clear that Messi enjoys having him by his side. They understand each other, and the arrival of this young lad from the Canary Islands with so much charm and willingness to sacrifice himself, has been a factor in turning Messi's frown upside down. We can see that he’s back at ease with the game.

The smile is back on the face of Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi.
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The smile is back on the face of Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi.CESAR MANSOAFP

Koeman sigh of relief

This decision meant leaving out Busquets, Griezmann and Coutinho. But the new model gave way to the best performance that we have seen from Barça this season, at last. Messi, in his new role as organiser with an overview of proceedings enabled him to appear out of nowhere to create an effort at goal. He was involved in the first two goals and scored the third, receiving a back-heel from Pedri. The two of them linked up several times, but this one encapsulated them all. Messi seems to like playing with this boy, who lays it all out there. Small partnerships make great teams, said Argentine World Cup winning manager, César Luis Menotti. Here we have one. And Koeman can breathe a sigh of relief.