Guillermo Amor praised Lionel Messi's "genius" for helping Barcelona overcome Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

Messi's wonderful 86th-minute goal was enough for Barca to edge to a 1-0 victory at the Wanda Metropolitano and return to the top of the table.

The forward has been in spectacular form and Amor – Barcelona's director of institutional and sporting relations – praised Messi's latest piece of magic.

"Leo has been back to his level again," Amor told Movistar.

"It is a match won by the teams. Atletico is a great team and could have taken the game too. It has been fairly even.

"There have been several phases during the match – a start very strong by Atletico, then we have reacted and we have finished at a good level. In the second half we have controlled and dominated.

"We have not let them out and in the end a genius of Leo has decided it."

Messi has scored nine goals in his past seven LaLiga games, but Barca also needed a good performance from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Amor praised the shot-stopper and said Barca would have been content with a draw away to Atletico.

"Leo gives us a lot and we needed him more than ever because he puts the team in the game when the team is not there. It makes the rest participate more," he said.

"Ter Stegen has also been magnificent... we could have drawn and it would not have been a bad result, but we are very happy with the victory."

Barcelona's next outing is a clash at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Diego Simeone said he is not worried about Barcelona and Real Madrid, instead concerned by Sevilla after Atletico Madrid lost further ground in LaLiga.

Atletico suffered a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona, who prevailed in Madrid thanks to Lionel Messi's stunning 86th-minute goal on Sunday.

The result left Atletico languishing in sixth, six points behind LaLiga champions Barca and Madrid, and five adrift of third-placed Sevilla.

"Barcelona and Real Madrid don't worry me," Atletico head coach Simeone told reporters. "Sevilla do, it's now five points."

Atletico looked the better of the two sides for most parts of Sunday's showdown in the Spanish capital.

However, Atletico were unable to take advantage – Simeone's side managing just 16 goals in 15 league matches this season.

It comes after an off-season of change, which saw Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Rodri, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Lucas Hernandez leave, and the likes of Joao Felix, Marcos Llorente, Mario Hermoso, Kieran Trippier and Felipe come in.

And Simeone called for patience as he said: "The team gave everything, the players are doing what the coach is asking of them.

"Change will come and, instead of hitting the post, the ball will go in. We have to stay patient and know that we're in a year of transition.

"I'm the least patient person, we have to understand the enormous change that the team has gone through, but we need time to improve.

"We're competing in all the matches we play in. I have the strength and balance to know that the league season is long."

On Atletico's lack of goals, Simeone added: "We can't argue with the numbers. We're busy trying to find solutions.

"The only way is to create chances and we did that. Joao [Felix] had rhythm, [Angel] Correa was very good.

"It's been eight years and it's the moment to push to achieve what the club are looking for."

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.

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."

Barcelona defender Sergi Roberto claimed his side's 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid on Sunday could prove a pivotal moment in the LaLiga title race.

The Catalan club were second best for much of the fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano but Lionel Messi scored a dramatic winner four minutes from time.

It helped Barca leapfrog Real Madrid back to the top of the table – albeit on goal difference – but provided a huge psychological boost.

"We knew that their fans were going to pressure us and it was the case," Roberto told Marca.

"Matches like these are where the league can be decided, and we have had to suffer to win.

"But there is a long way to go, and many teams will pose a threat."

Roberto said he could not choose between Messi and Marc-Andre ter Stegen as Barcelona's man of the match.

Argentina forward Messi scored Barcelona's winner with a stunning curling effort.

However, Barcelona were indebted to Ter Stegen's heroics in goal as he pulled off two incredible saves to deny Mario Hermoso and Alvaro Morata.

"Marc has made two good saves and Messi has decided the game," added the 27-year-old.

"It is a victory for the group. Atletico have pressurised us a lot. They created a couple of very clear chances."

Atletico's Saul Niguez felt Messi was the biggest factor in the Catalan side's victory.

"The one who makes the difference is Leo," Saul said.

"Because he is the one who gets it. Ter Stegen has managed to get a couple of balls, fortunately, although another has been with great quality. For me, the best has been Messi.

"We have played a great game, Barcelona has not had many chances, but when it appears Leo is able to do what he does with terrible ease, that's why he is the best.

"The team has given everything, but what counts is the victory."

Ter Stegen said he was just doing his job when asked about his brilliance between the posts.

The Germany international believes the victory over Atletico will boost Barcelona's confidence for the challenges ahead.

"These matches make us grow as a team and that is what it is about," Ter Stegen added.

"We knew that it is a very difficult game. It is normal that they have made chances, because they have a lot of quality.

"But defensively we have played well and in the end we have scored a goal that helped win an important game."

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is a player many teams would like to sign, according to Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta.

Vidal featured in 13 of Barca's 18 matches this season prior to Sunday's trip to Atletico Madrid, though just four of those appearances have been starts.

The Chile international this week vowed to leave Camp Nou next year should he fail to be given more minutes by Ernesto Valverde, despite having 18 months to run on his contract.

Inter have been tipped to move for Vidal, who worked with Marotta and head coach Antonio Conte at Juventus, but the Nerazzurri chief said his Barcelona deal must be respected.

"He is an important player on the world stage and both Conte and I are tied to him because of our great past together," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"We have great considerations of him. I think a lot of teams would like to sign him, but unfortunately he's at Barcelona. However, thoughts can certainly be made."

Inter beat SPAL 2-1 on Sunday through a Lautaro Martinez brace to leapfrog Juventus at the Serie A summit.

Clashes between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are always fascinating occasions, with two completely different philosophies pitted against each other.

But Sunday's contest at the Wanda Metropolitano will be intriguing for an entirely new reason – the return of Antoine Griezmann.

The France international's move to Barca was somewhat acrimonious, with Atletico convinced he was talking to his new club long before his release clause dropped from €200million to €120m.

Atletico fans had long been frustrated with Griezmann's behaviour, particularly after his 'Decision' documentary last year showed him considering a move before eventually signing a new deal.

Yet, for all the build-up, drama and soap opera-like twists and turns, Griezmann's adaptation at Camp Nou has been underwhelming.

Ahead of Griezmann's return to the Wanda, we took a look at Opta data to examine how Barca are faring since signing the forward, whether Atletico are suffering without him and how he is doing individually.

Griezmann struggling to influence

It's difficult to find evidence that shows Griezmann has improved Barca in any way. The data suggests they are less effective with him in the team.

Across Barca's 61 matches last season, they averaged 2.3 goals and 2.2 points per match. Both figures have dropped, to 2.2 and 2.1, respectively, while they're winning with less regularity as well, down to 64.7 per cent from 67.2 per cent.

It's a similar story with respect to shots, with their average per match now 11.9 with Griezmann. Last season they recorded 15.3 attempts per game.

In Griezmann's 17 games for Barca, they have a passing accuracy of 78.6 per cent in the final third and 84.4 per cent in the opposing half. Once again, those figures are less than last term (79.2 per cent and 85.1 per cent).

While it would be unfair to suggest Griezmann is to blame in every area, a lack of fluency and effectiveness in Barca's attack this season is difficult to deny.

Yet to find his niche

A relative decrease in productivity can be expected to a certain degree when changing teams, particularly given the contrasting styles imposed by Atletico and Barca, but few would have predicted Griezmann's individual contributions to suffer as much as they have.

At Atletico last term, Griezmann scored 21 goals, laid on 11 assists and created 88 chances in 48 matches. As such, that equates to finding the net every 2.2 games, averaging 4.3 matches per assist and crafting 1.8 opportunities per outing.

This season, Griezmann has scored five times, got three assists and created 12 chances in 17 games.

That means he is only scoring once every 3.4 matches, almost double his record for last term, averaging 5.6 games per assist and laying on just 0.7 chances in each match.

Barca more lethal without Griezy

Griezmann has been out of the starting XI three times for Barca this season and the data does him few favours.

Barca have a 100 per cent winning record and average 4.0 goals in those games, double what they have been scoring with him in the line-up.

Without Griezmann Barca are averaging 15.3 shots each match, a 3.8 increase than when he does feature in the starting XI.

Barca have seen less of the ball across those matches, registering 54.4 per cent possession compared to 65.1 per cent with Griezmann. However, that metric combined with their shot average suggests the Blaugrana are more ponderous and less incisive when the Frenchman plays.

A new era

Atletico have seen a slight decrease across some areas compared to last season since Griezmann's exit.

When the France star featured for Simeone's men, they averaged 1.5 goals and 2.0 points per match. Their figures are down to 1.3 and 1.9, respectively, this term, while Atleti's win percentage is down from 56.2 per cent to 50 per cent.

But the difference in many other areas is negligible, and in fact, they are averaging more shots and conceding fewer efforts at goal since Griezmann left.

At the moment it seems Atletico are slightly less clinical and decisive without Griezmann, though it's difficult to argue they are actually missing him. At least, not the Griezmann who featured for them in 2018-19.

Real Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois is the best goalkeeper in the world, according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Courtois was dropped to the bench for Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday amid criticism of his performances.

However, his international boss Martinez labelled the 27-year-old the world's best despite admitting the goalkeeper was going through a "difficult period".

"Thibaut is for me the best goalkeeper in the world, as he showed at the [2018] World Cup," Martinez said on Saturday.

"From there, he is the best person for me to defend Real Madrid's goal.

"It has been a difficult period, but I think that the opportunity to return with the national team has helped him to regain the good feelings, in the same way that we hope that the successes he has at Real Madrid can help us in the Euros."

Belgium were drawn alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B for Euro 2020.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes voting for the Ballon d'Or should be easy, saying Lionel Messi deserved to win the award.

Messi, 32, is tipped to win a record sixth Ballon d'Or in Paris on Monday after enjoying another stellar year.

Valverde, whose team visit Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday, said voting should be no problem as Messi is the world's best player.

"I don't follow these awards galas because they are too long. My vote, well, I guess, is the same as yours," he told a news conference.

"I would vote for the best, obviously. Ever year you always vote depending on how the seasons have gone for the players.

"But if you have to give it to the best, let's just give it to Messi and the problem is solved."

Ahead of their trip to the Wanda Metropolitano, Barcelona are second in LaLiga, three points behind rivals Real Madrid.

Eden Hazard's time at Real Madrid will develop into something "very special", according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Hazard appeared to be finding some form for Madrid before suffering an ankle injury in a Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

The former Chelsea star has just one goal and two assists in 13 games this season, but Martinez believes the Belgium playmaker will become a Madrid star.

"I saw Eden at the [Santiago] Bernabeu against PSG and I have to say that we saw a fascinating hour," Martinez said on Saturday.

"He taught us how his season with Real Madrid will be and the truth is that it makes your mouth water.

"Too bad he had to come off because of the injury, but we see an Eden Hazard that is going to contribute more and more, that his mates know him more and more and the truth is that the project of Eden at Real Madrid will be very special."

Martinez was speaking after Belgium were drawn to face Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B at Euro 2020.

Another player sure to be key to possible success for Belgium at next year's tournament is Romelu Lukaku, who has scored 11 goals in 17 games for Inter this season.

"The truth is that he had a very difficult period in Manchester United, especially the last six months," Martinez said about the striker.

"He is now leading a project with Antonio Conte and it will be very interesting to see its evolution."

Ousmane Dembele's latest injury lay-off has affected the player and represents a "big loss" for Barcelona, according to head coach Ernesto Valverde.

The 22-year-old injured his right hamstring in the first half of Barca's 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined until February.

It is the latest in a string of fitness issues Dembele has suffered since his €105million transfer from Dortmund in August 2017, including three thigh problems, two damaged hamstrings and an ankle sprain.

Valverde is unsure why the France international has been regularly struck down by injuries over the past few seasons and wants others to fill the void.

"I'm not a specialist in muscle fibres," he said at Saturday's news conference. "I say that everything comes from the first injury. I do not have a concrete idea [of why he picks up these injuries]. He is a very explosive player.

"I've talked to him. Now he is calmer after the injury, but he was very affected especially by the repetition [of a muscular injury]. We'll try to cover for the loss with players from the B team, who are responding by playing at a good level.

"It's clear that when he arrived here two years ago, he had to get used to our style and fit in here. It is true that he was improving, being calm, training well. He is a big loss and it's an unexpected setback."

Dembele will be unavailable during a tricky run of fixtures for LaLiga's champions, who face Atletico Madrid on Sunday before matches against Mallorca, Inter, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.

Barca have come from behind to draw 1-1 on their previous two trips to Wanda Metropolitano and Valverde expects another tough test this weekend.

"In both games we fell behind and we had to come back, but they followed a very similar pattern," he said on the eve of the match. 

"We took the initiative, but they hurt us by attacking us. It is possible that it will become like this or that there is some modification tomorrow. They are good in attack and strong in defence, very cohesive. It'll be an attractive match.

"Any match at Atletico's ground is important for everyone. It is one of the important matches for everyone and we have to play well."

Arturo Vidal is expected to be part of Barcelona's travelling squad, despite suggesting this week that he will force through a move next year if he is not given more playing time.

Valverde does not believe the Chile international is pressuring him into getting more minutes, however, adding: "I don't think so. It's more a personal reflection. The transfer market isn't open yet, so when it starts we'll see.

"He fitted in well from the beginning. When he arrived he already knew that he was coming to a team that had won the league and cup.

"He found his place. The great players want to play, there is a lot of competition, but I reiterate that the market has not opened yet."

Diego Simeone has challenged his side to be more aggressive at both ends of the pitch when Barcelona visit the Wanda Metropolitano.

While the Rojiblancos have been typically dogged at the back so far this campaign, conceding just nine goals in 14 games, they have struggled badly in front of goal.

They drew another blank in their 1-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus in midweek and are the least prolific of all bar one team among LaLiga's top 13 sides.

Simeone was happy with this team's display in Turin and wants to see a similar approach against Ernesto Valverde's side, albeit with added intensity in both penalty areas.

"We want to score more goals and be more aggressive in both penalty areas, which is where the games are resolved," he told a media conference.

"We work to compete in the best way and we want to win the match. We played well in Turin and hopefully we will do the same but with a different result."

Atleti have come in for criticism this season after winning just six of their opening 14 LaLiga games.

Simeone has pointed to a number of injuries to key players, though, and says he is broadly happy with how his side have done in the opening months of the campaign.

"I am clear about the goals for the club and what the club needs to achieve them," he added. 

"We have had to play without Stefan Savic, Jose Gimenez and Diego Costa. These are situations that one cannot imagine at the start of the season, although it can happen.

"The team is competing well and I hope I can have a game like in Turin, but with another result."

Real Madrid's character in their 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves at a sodden Mendizorroza delighted head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Goals from skipper Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal either side of Lucas Perez's 65th-minute penalty put Madrid three points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, ahead of the champions entertaining Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Zidane selected Alphonse Areola ahead of Thibaut Courtois in goal, while Eder Militao and the under-fire Gareth Bale also started in a shuffled line-up for a keenly contested match.

"It's very important victory, but [we will not be] looking at tomorrow's game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid," Zidane told a post-match news conference.

"Winning at these grounds is what we live for. We played with lots of personality.

"We played really seriously. We knew that we had to fight and we did it.

"We've got three points at a very difficult place to come."

On his surprise selection calls, Zidane added: "[Starting] Areola was today's decision. He's part of the squad, he trains well.

"He's part of the squad and he saved us, like Courtois sometimes does. He did fantastically well.

"Militao did very well and he has the right to play.

"We have to play every three days. The important thing is that everyone shows me every week that they are plugged in."

Madrid return to LaLiga action next weekend when they host Espanyol.

Dani Carval was the unlikely match-winner for Real Madrid as a gritty 2-1 victory at Deportivo Alaves took them top of LaLiga on Saturday.

The right-back prodded home at the end of a chaotic 17-minute period at a sodden Mendizorroza that saw the two sides share three second-half goals.

Sergio Ramos scored first, nodding in Toni Kroos' free-kick, then turned villain with a foul on Joselu that allowed Lucas Perez to restore parity from the spot.

Madrid rose to the challenge and restored their advantage three minutes after the equaliser to go three points clear of Barcelona, who visit Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

Eden Hazard's ankle injury opened the door for Gareth Bale to make his first start since October 5 and the winger almost made an early contribution, his deflected header hitting the post in the 10th minute.

Eder Militao was involved in two Alaves penalty shouts either side of that chance, the first resulting in Aleix Vidal being booked for simulation when there appeared to be a slight trip.

The rain intensified after an error-strewn first half and, in the 52nd minute, Madrid raised their level.

Kroos curled an inviting free-kick into the box and Ramos glanced it beyond goalkeeper Pacheco for his fifth goal of the season in all competitions.

It took just 13 minutes for the centre-back to undo his good work.

Ramos raised a hand to Joselu's face in the box and Perez sent Alphonse Areola, chosen ahead of Thibaut Courtois, the wrong way from the resultant spot-kick.

Madrid were tasked with responding and Carvajal delivered the decisive goal in quick fashion, prodding home the winner at point-blank range after Pacheco blocked an Isco header on the line.

Alaves pressed hard for a second leveller but desperate goal-line interventions from Marcelo and Areola in the closing stages denied both Perez and Manu Garcia, before Federico Valverde missed a clear chance for a third in the dying seconds.

Ousmane Dembele will receive treatment on his injured hamstring at a sports medicine hospital in Qatar, Barcelona have confirmed.

Dembele is expected to be sidelined until February by the injury to his right hamstring, which he sustained during the first half of Barca's 3-1 win over his former club Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old will be unavailable during a tricky run of fixtures for the LaLiga champions, who face Atletico Madrid on Sunday before matches against Mallorca, Inter, Real Sociedad and Real Madrid.

Dembele's injury is the latest in a string of fitness issues he has suffered since his €105million transfer from Dortmund in August 2017, including three thigh problems, two damaged hamstrings and an ankle sprain.

A statement on the club's official website said: "Ousmane Dembele is to begin treatment on his right hamstring injury on Sunday, alternating between Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Qatar and work closer to home at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

"The entire recovery programme is being supervised and run by the FC Barcelona medical services.

"The initial forecast is that the player will be out of action for around 10 weeks."

Zinedine Zidane named Gareth Bale in Real Madrid's starting XI and left Thibaut Courtois on the bench for Saturday's meeting with Deportivo Alaves.

Madrid had the chance to go top of LaLiga, at least temporarily, with a point and four changes were made to the team that conceded two late goals in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.

Eden Hazard's absence as the result of an ankle injury gave Wales international Bale the chance to start at club level for the first time since October 5.

The 30-year-old winger angered Los Blancos supporters last week when he posed in front of a flag that read: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID. IN THAT ORDER".

Eder Militao took the place of Raphael Varane, who reportedly suffered a knock against PSG, while loanee Alphonse Areola got the nod in goal as head coach Zidane shuffled his pack for a third game in seven days.

Luka Modric came into midfield for Fede Valverde, who joined Vinicius Junior on the bench.

Zidane declared the little-used Brazilian attacker would not be sent out on loan in January, but it remained to be seen if he would get an opportunity to impress against the competition's 13th-placed team.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.