Barcelona stumbled to a new setback in their troubled week as Inaki Williams' header in added time dumped last season's beaten finalists out of the Copa del Rey.

A hard-fought quarter-final appeared destined for extra time until Williams applied enough of a touch to Ibai Gomez's inswinging cross from the right flank to send the ball beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the net.

The winner in the third minute of stoppage time saw Athletic through to the last four and, with Real Madrid surprisingly beaten at home by Real Sociedad just hours earlier, it means neither of Spain's two heavyweight clubs are left standing.

Lionel Messi, who had made the headlines in the lead-up to the game for criticising director of football Eric Abidal, had Barca's best chance, only to be denied by Unai Simon's outstretched left leg late in the second half.

The Athletic goalkeeper had also denied substitute Antoine Griezmann but, for the first time in seven seasons, the Catalan club will not be involved in the final of the competition.

Lionel Messi was given the chance to do his talking on the pitch on Thursday after he was named in the Barcelona starting line-up for their Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

Messi made headlines this week when criticising Eric Abidal, the Spanish club's director of football, for suggesting some Barca players were not working hard enough under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

The Argentina international called out Abidal for his comments in the media, telling the Frenchman he should name the individuals who were not pulling their weight.

Such a reaction has raised questions over Messi's future at Camp Nou, though the 32-year-old was selected in the XI for the quarter-final tie against Athletic.

Ansu Fati was also chosen in the team, the teenager keeping his place after scoring both goals in Barcelona's 2-1 LaLiga win over Levante at the weekend.

Head coach Quique Setien made just one change from that side, bringing in Sergi Roberto to replace Antoine Griezmann.

Even when you consider the well-reported exit clause in his contract, until recently the idea of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for another club was virtually unthinkable.

But this week friction has started to appear, with Messi publicly calling out Barca director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players in an interview, saying that "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem" before Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Messi's forthright response on Instagram said the "sports management must also assume their responsibilities" and suggested Abidal should name specific players if he is willing to criticise them, otherwise "we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true".

Barca have since assured – via Spain's sports newspapers – that all is well, the pair have reconciled and Abidal will keep his job, but that is unlikely to dispel concern among supporters, particularly following further reports several other clubs have registered an interest.

Nevertheless, arguably for the first time ever, the prospect of Messi leaving does not seem an impossibility, particularly given a contract clause allows him to leave for free – but where would that leave Barca?

A BRUTAL GENIUS

Declaring Messi important to Barcelona would be an understatement akin to saying the Titanic was big. After all, he's helped them win 34 trophies.

Messi made his breakthrough in the 2004-05 season and his impact has been almost beyond comprehension. If the six-time Ballon d'Or winner isn't the greatest footballer of all-time, good luck making a case for anyone else.

He has gone on to play a role in 864 goals (622 goals, 242 assists) in 711 matches across all competitions, a truly astounding feat.

One gets an even greater perspective of his influence when considering how much of Barca's overall total that equates to.

Across the same period, the Blaugrana have scored 2,241 times, meaning he has had a hand in 39 per cent of all of their goals over a period of almost 16 years – including his first season when he featured on just nine occasions.

Since the 2007-08 campaign, his first with more than 20 involvements, that figure shoots up to 44 per cent – or 804 of Barca's 1,812 goals in that time.

ONE-MAN TEAM?

Given some of the players he has featured alongside, it is probably a step too far to suggest Barca have been a one-man team since Messi made a first-team role his own.

However, there can be little denying he has often carried them and no one else has had a remotely comparable impact.

Over the past 12 seasons, Messi has finished as Barca's leading scorer across all competitions in all but one - 2015-16 when Luis Suarez plundered 59.

His best was that remarkable 2011-12 campaign when he scored 73 goals across all fronts, while a haul of 29 assists took him to 102 involvements - 54 per cent of the team's total.

IRREPLACABLE?

Where do you even start when planning to replace a player who has been directly involved in almost 50 per cent of your club's goals in a 12-and-a-half-year period?

One would hope for Barca's sake they have some form of contingency plan, but even if they do, it's difficult to imagine them being able to buy anyone anywhere near as influential.

Messi is more than a mere footballer – Barca teams for more than a decade have been built with the purpose of getting the best out of him, while he is virtually unrivalled both as a creator and finisher.

Neymar is the obvious candidate to replace Messi when the time comes, as he does offer a similar blend of deadliness and craft, although Barca's financial constraints are well-documented and it's hard to see how they could afford him at the moment, even without Messi's wage.

They may opt to go down the route of signing a more singled-minded attacker, such as Kylian Mbappe or Lautaro Martinez, but again, certainly in the case of the former, affordability may be an issue.

Even if Antoine Griezmann manages to belatedly blossom in Barcelona colours, Messi's eventual departure will leave a gaping chasm that their current squad is unequipped to fill.

Putting together a post-Messi Barca could just be the single most fascinating rebuilding job in football history – but Josep Maria Bartomeu and Abidal will be clinging on to the hope that won't be for another few years yet.

Manchester City are reportedly lining up a move for Lionel Messi in a free transfer amid the star's troubles at Barcelona.

Messi, 32, has been involved in a public disagreement with the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal, leading to immediate questions over his future at Camp Nou.

City, and former boss Pep Guardiola, look ready to make their move.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY EYE MESSI FOR FREE AMID BARCELONA TROUBLES

Manchester City will swoop for Messi for free if the star cannot resolve his problems at Barcelona, according to The Sun.

While Messi is contracted until 2021, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last year the Argentina international was free to leave after the 2019-20 season.

Messi worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, with the duo winning three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns among numerous other trophies at the club.

ROUND-UP

- There could be major changes coming at Arsenal. The Sun reports Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are at risk with Arsenal perhaps prepared to sell their stars to finance a spending spree.

- Manchester United and Chelsea are set to go head-to-head in a bid to sign Lyon forward Moussa Dembele at the end of the season, according to The Mirror. Dembele, 23, has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals in 22 matches this season and has been linked with a move to Old Trafford previously.

- Staying in Manchester and City must wait until April to resolve the future of Leroy Sane after the attacker's switch of agent, according to The Telegraph and Bild. Sane is a reported target for Bayern Munich and Manchester City will have to wait to discuss the Germany international's future due to a clause in his deal with his previous agency.

- With Ousmane Dembele facing a long spell on the sidelines, Barcelona are eyeing Girona forward Cristhian Stuani, according to Deportes Cuatro, which reports the 33-year-old Uruguayan has a €20million release clause. Barca would need approval to complete the deal outside the transfer window.

- Could Liverpool have to search for a new back-up goalkeeper? Estadio Deportivo reports Real Betis are considering a move for their former shot-stopper Adrian, who is contracted to the European champions until 2021, with the club holding an option for a further year.

Pep Guardiola warned Barcelona they would need time to readjust when Lionel Messi leaves the club, after Real Madrid's struggles following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in July 2018 and the Spanish giants battled that season, winning only the Club World Cup and seeing three different coaches at the helm, including the return of Zinedine Zidane.

Manchester City manager Guardiola expects his former club Barca to endure a similar problem when Messi, another all-time great, departs Camp Nou.

"It is inevitable, these players are so transcendent," he told Post United in an interview conducted by Spanish YouTuber DjMariio, via Marca.

"When Messi leaves Barca it will take time to readjust. It is inevitable.

"They score 40-50 goals per season."

Guardiola has continued to enjoy coaching success since leaving Barcelona, a spell at Bayern Munich preceding his move to Manchester.

Already a two-time Premier League winner, Guardiola has another young star in his squad in highly rated midfielder Phil Foden.

Foden has only made two Premier League starts this season, but Guardiola talked up the 19-year-old's talent.

"He will be a bomb," he said.

"There are no clauses here, you have it raw, you have to negotiate with me."

Zinedine Zidane does not expect Barcelona to be weakened by the off-field unrest that has blighted Real Madrid's LaLiga title rivals this week.

A potentially damaging row has broken out at Camp Nou after Barca star Lionel Messi hit back at director of football Eric Abidal, who suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal as coach.

Messi went public with his response in an Instagram post directly referencing Abidal's comments in which he wrote: "When talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true".

The situation is so serious that former Barca winger Francisco Jose 'Lobo' Carrasco claimed Messi could be on the brink of exiting the club.

But Zidane did not want to wade in on the issue, which he does not believe will derail Barca's season.

Asked if Madrid could take advantage of their Clasico rivals' plight, the Frenchman said: "It's never like that, it's not about that.

"They're not going to be weak, they're a very competitive team. We're not thinking about that for one minute.

"They will compete with us until the end of the season. Good players are always good."

Turning his attention to his own team, who won the Madrid derby last time out and facing Real Sociedad in the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Zidane – who also declined to comment on Kylian Mbappe's apparent discontentment at Paris Saint-Germain ​– added: "We have good momentum, we have to keep going in the same way.

"There's a long way to go yet, we haven't won anything yet and that's what it's all about. You can be happy when you've won something, but we haven't won anything yet."

Madrid beat Sociedad 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in November and welcome them back for a one-off clash in a competition they have not won since 2014.

Zidane anticipates a tough match against a side who sit eighth in LaLiga.

"It's like a final," he said. "It's not like a quarter-final, It's just one game.

"I don't think they're going to come here and give an inch. We have to be really focused, switched on right from the start.

"It's a really good team, as they've shown all season. They play really good football. It's a team that's going to come here and try to do things well."

Zidane refused to confirm if Eden Hazard would be involved following his lengthy absence with an ankle injury.

Quique Setien insists Lionel Messi loves being at Barcelona and is smiling as normal in training amid his public disagreement with sporting director Eric Abidal.

Messi took to Instagram to urge Abidal to "give names" after the Frenchman questioned the work ethic of some Barca players under Setien's predecessor Ernesto Valverde.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu is reportedly set to hold talks with Abidal to discuss the situation amid fevered speculation over the row.

Setien, though, claimed he was not interested in the situation and had not seen any change in Messi's attitude during training on Wednesday, with the same response applying to the squad as a whole.

Asked if the Argentina star was still motivated, Setien said: "Of course, I have seen him smiling, he seems fine, he loves coming to train, he loves being here, he looks the same as yesterday and the day before.

"Messi has the experience and the capacity to decide about things that he should or should not do. 

"I'm not going to get involved in the life of Messi, or anyone else.

"I'm nobody's dad, I have to ensure that my players come here, come here happy and that what we provide on the pitch are good for them to grow so that we can continue winning. The other stuff doesn't bother me at all."

Ahead of Thursday's away Copa del Rey quarter-final against Athletic Bilbao, Setien stressed that contest was his sole concern amid continued questions about Messi, Abidal, the hamstring injury to Ousmane Dembele and how the club had handled the January transfer window.

"The majority of things you have said I'm sure are very important things but they don't affect me at all," he said. 

"I will try everything possible to ensure my group are as little affected as possible. We spoke one minute about this, talking about the importance of tomorrow's game and the obligation we have to completely focus on that, which is what interests us.

"My interest is football, as for everything else I'm sure there are situations I'm not able to control so that's why I don't waste my time on them.

"I'm going to talk about what really interests me and the players, football. I will try to make sure everything that happens around the club doesn't affect us.

"I know there are always problems in this club and it is the same in every club in the world, I'm sure. You can talk, but talk to me about football, please. I want to have training, prepare for the game and focus."

Much has happened off the field in Setien's first month since replacing Valverde, but he was adamant about having no regrets over taking the Barca job.

"No, definitely not!" he said. "It is true I didn't have a problem a month ago at home, but what a problem this is to have. 

"I have the same desire, same will, maybe more now because my life has never been easy. 

"This is what you can expect when you come to team of this dimension. I've never crumbled easily and I'm absolutely convinced this will go well."

Lionel Messi looks like he has "one foot out of the door" following his public disagreement with Eric Abidal, according to former Barcelona winger Francisco Jose 'Lobo' Carrasco.

Barca director of football Abidal suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal as coach, a claim that provoked a response from the usually media shy Messi.

Writing on his official Instagram account and specifically highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi said: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions.

"The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well.

"Those responsible for the area of sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make.

"Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true."

The spat does nothing to quell fears Messi has become tired of a perceived lack of leadership at boardroom level and will look to leave Camp Nou at the end of the season.

And Carrasco, who spent 11 years at Barcelona and won LaLiga in 1985, would not be surprised to see the six-time Ballon d'Or winner seek a new challenge.

He told Spanish TV programme El Chiringuito: "He's ill at ease.

"In all the years I've been watching him, and have loved the way he plays, it's the first time Messi has looked to me like he has one foot out of the door.

"I've never had to say that before."

Barca are next in action on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao – coach Quique Setien is due to address the media in his usual pre-match news conference on Wednesday, with the comments of Abidal and Messi likely to be high on the agenda.

Eric Abidal's interview tipped Lionel Messi over the edge.

Normally quiet, especially on social media, Messi used Instagram to hit out at Barcelona director of football Abidal, who had earlier suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Barca superstar Messi is reportedly unhappy with how things are unfolding at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TIRED OF BEING BARCA SCAPEGOAT

Lionel Messi is tired of being held responsible for everything that happens at Barcelona amid doubts over his future, according to COPE and Marca.

Contracted until 2021, captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi snapped back at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players at the club as he discussed Ernesto Valverde's exit.

It comes amid discontent towards the board and Barca's struggles on the pitch.

Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East would all be interested should the Argentine opt for a change of scenery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Has Paul Pogba played his last game for Manchester United? The Red Devils are resigned to losing Pogba at the end of the season, reports The Mirror. Linked to Real Madrid and former club Juventus, Pogba has not featured since December due to an ongoing ankle problem.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United will prioritise signing Aston Villa star Jack Grealish as fellow midfield target James Maddison nears a new deal with Leicester City.

Atletico Madrid will consider Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach if they move on from Diego Simeone, reports the Telegraph. Pochettino continues to be linked with United, who are struggling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- Standard Sport claims Chelsea will sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at the end of the season after failing to land the Frenchman in January.

- Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Arsenal, reports The Sun. Arsenal enquired about the 22-year-old Brazilian's availability last month.

Milan snubbed the chance to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January, says Calciomercato. Matic is out of contract at season's end but is open to extending his time in Manchester.

Lionel Messi has sensationally hit out at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal after he suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal.

Abidal granted several interviews to Spanish media outlets on Tuesday and, in a chat with Catalan publication Sport, the Frenchman outlined the thought process behind Valverde's sacking in January.

He revealed they began to consider a change of coach after 0-0 Clasico draw at home to Real Madrid on December 18, with the former left-back claiming he and his colleagues had identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

But Messi, who is rarely at the centre of controversy at the club, has called Abidal out over his comments, telling him he should name individuals rather than tar everyone with the same brush.

Writing on his official Instagram account and specifically highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi said: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions.

"The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well.

"Those responsible for the area of ​​sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make.

"Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true."

Barca are next in action on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao – coach Quique Setien is due to address the media in his usual pre-match news conference on Wednesday, with the comments of Abidal and Messi likely to be high on the agenda.

Ansu Fati said he still finds himself doubting whether his breakthrough season at Barcelona is "all real or not" after scoring a match-winning brace in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Levante.

Fati, 17, emerged at the start of the season and impressed with his performances for LaLiga champions Barca, despite being so young.

Injuries contributed to a slight decline in form towards the end of 2019, while recent displays left a lot to be desired, but he appeared to be back to his best against Levante.

Fati scored both of Barca's goals, with Lionel Messi setting each of them up, and generally caught the eye as a creative force as well.

In scoring his goals, Fati became the youngest player to net a LaLiga brace this century and he is struggling to comprehend the life he is living.

"I still have doubts about whether all this is real or not," Fati told Movistar when it was put to him that both goals were set up by Messi.

"I've been watching him play for many years, and now I play with him, it's a dream.

"This is a dream. I have always dreamed of this moment. I have to thank my team-mates and the coach for giving me the opportunity."

After going through a somewhat tricky period, Fati credits his team-mates with encouraging him.

"They just told me I have to keep improving and seize the opportunity," he said.

"My team-mates are making everything very easy for me. I have to thank them because it's not easy for a kid to come in, and they treat me so well."

Victory on Sunday moved Barca back to within three points of pacesetters Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati led the way for Barcelona as Quique Setien's men did just enough to claim a 2-1 win over Levante at Camp Nou on Sunday, moving them back to within three points of leaders Real Madrid.

After a remarkable breakthrough at the start of the season, Fati had recently come in for criticism amid some underwhelming displays, but he showed just how effective he can be as Messi carved open the Levante defence.

Fati took his top-flight tally to four with a pair of strikes separated by just 102 seconds in the first half, profiting from the brilliance of Messi on both occasions to become the youngest player to score a LaLiga brace this century.

Levante offered a lot more from an attacking perspective after the break and deservedly pulled one back through Barca academy product Ruben Rochina in stoppage time, but Fati's efforts had put the game beyond the visitors, despite a hat-trick ultimately eluding the 17-year-old.

After easing their way into the contest, Barca crafted a flurry of chances after the 13th minute – Messi shooting agonisingly wide and then testing Aitor Fernandez, before Antoine Griezmann prodded just off target.

Levante were eventually breached after half an hour as Messi fed Fati with an exquisite throughball and the teenager clinically slotted home.

The same pair combined again less than two minutes later, Fati this time firing through the legs of the unconvincing Fernandez.

The lead should have been extended before half-time, but Nelson Semedo hit the crossbar and Griezmann inexplicably missed from inside the six-yard box.

Barca were fortunate to not concede early in the second half – Jose Luis Morales galloping through on goal and seeing his effort saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with Rochina hopelessly blazing the rebound over.

Fati was not far off getting a third in the 73rd minute when his overhead-kick went just past the left-hand post, while Levante finally got on the scoresheet soon after wasting two fine chances – Rochina's strike hitting Ter Stegen and going in.

 

What does it mean? A welcome win but defensive concerns remain

Barca were abysmal in their previous LaLiga match, the 2-0 defeat at Valencia that preceded the Copa del Rey demolition of Leganes.

In Mestalla they left a lot to be desired at the back and again they failed to keep a clean sheet on Sunday, with those concerns still prominent. Levante could – and arguably should – have had more than one goal to show for their efforts.

Fati gets a timely boost

It would be unfair to be too harsh on a teenager, particularly considering he is obviously talented, but Fati's impact of late had been minimal. On Sunday, however, he was lively, intelligent with his movement and a creative outlet, providing three key passes on top of his two goals.

Griezmann is no Suarez

Luis Suarez was always going to be tricky to replace, even for Griezmann. There were hints of promise in the first half as the Frenchman got into some good positions, but he wasted one particularly good opportunity. None of his three shots were on target and he did not create any chances either – Suarez is often productive on both fronts..

What's next?

Barca return to Copa del Rey action on Thursday at Athletic Bilbao, before heading to Seville to face Setien's former club Real Betis in LaLiga three days later. Levante host Leganes on Saturday.

Quique Setien declared Neymar's interest in a Camp Nou comeback to be good news as the Barcelona boss detailed his desire to keep Lionel Messi happy.

Brazil international Neymar attempted to engineer a return to his former employers last year and, though seemingly now fully committed to Paris Saint-Germain, his future could still lay in LaLiga.

Barca have been tipped to reignite negotiations further down the line and their new head coach would welcome the star forward's arrival.

"That's good," Setien told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Neymar's desire for a second Barca stint.

"I love to watch and have great footballers and if I can watch Neymar every day, just imagine."

Barca captain Messi was among those pushing hardest for his former team-mate's return, admitting he would have "loved" the transfer to go ahead.

The 32-year-old claimed "some people were against" moving for Neymar despite the boost he could have given in their pursuit of yet more trophies.

Setien is hopeful the mercurial Messi continues to feel enthusiastic about life in Catalonia, with his contract due to expire next year.

"I hope we make him so happy that he is looking forward to staying," the Blaugrana boss said in a separate interview with Sport. "He will be here in the future, I have no doubts.

"The talks have been very normal as with any other player. He is very convinced that we can win. He is perceived to be a winner and cares that things are done well.

"He takes interest in the talks. He knows he is an important part, one that can solve many games, but we have to rely on the team to be stronger."

Barca, second behind Real Madrid in LaLiga, host Levante on Sunday.

Lionel Messi has hit yet another milestone at Barcelona, having now featured in 500 wins for the club.

Messi scored twice and played a part in Barca's other three goals in a 5-0 rout of Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

It makes Messi the first player to reach the landmark, with Xavi having won 476 matches and Andres Iniesta reaching 459 victories before departing Camp Nou.

Espanyol were the first side to lose to a Barca team that included Messi, back in October 2004.

Meanwhile, UDA Gramenet are the only team to have faced Messi and managed to avoid defeat, having beaten Barca in the Copa del Rey last 64 in 2004-05.

In total, Messi has been on the winning side against 86 different teams, with Sevilla his favourite opponent.

Messi has won 29 times against the Andalusian club, while he has 24 victories over Atletico Madrid and 19 versus Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona bounced back from their first defeat under Quique Setien with a resounding 5-0 victory over Leganes in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.

A 2-0 loss at Valencia on Saturday resulted in reigning LaLiga champions Barca falling three points adrift of rivals Real Madrid in the title race, but they appeared to get right back on track at Camp Nou on Thursday.

Setien named a strong starting line-up and Antoine Griezmann took less than four minutes to open the scoring, with Clement Lenglet nodding in the second before the half-hour mark.

Messi extended their advantage with a fortuitous finish in the 59th minute, and he doubled his tally after substitute Arthur found the back of the net to send Barca breezing into the quarter-finals.

After Nelson Semedo played a give-and-go with Messi, he cut the ball back to Griezmann, who fired between Chidozie Awaziem's legs and into the bottom-left corner to give Barca an early lead.

Setien's team dominated possession and had a second goal for Griezmann ruled out in the ninth minute, with Jordi Alba deemed to have been marginally offside in the build-up.

Griezmann saw a deflected shot tipped around the post by Ivan Cuellar, but Lenglet nodded the resulting corner from Messi over the Leganes goalkeeper and into the far corner to increase Barca's advantage in the 27th minute.

The visitors sporadically threatened on the counter-attack, yet their hopes of getting back into the game were extinguished when Messi raced away on the right and beat Cuellar with the help of a deflection off Rodrigo Tarin.

Leganes coach Javier Aguirre was shown a yellow card for dissent, and his mood would not have improved in the 77th minute, Arthur firing home after Cuellar denied Ansu Fati and Awaziem blocked Messi on the initial follow-up.

Messi rounded off a magnificent display with one minute remaining by latching onto Ivan Rakitic's throughball, rounding Cuellar and sending the ball into the roof of the net.

 

What does it mean? Barca could rue not getting another striker

With a move for Valencia attacker Rodrigo Moreno having broken down, Barca director Guillermo Amor said they were happy to finish the transfer window without signing attacking cover for Luis Suarez, who has been ruled until close to the end of the season with a knee injury.

This match would have been a good opportunity for Barca to grant Griezmann and Messi a rest, even though they proved pivotal to the result. They are now even more crucial in the run-in and no risks can be taken with the star pairing.

Magical Messi

It was not a spectacular display from Barcelona, but Messi was involved in all five goals. He released Semedo for the opener, assisted Lenglet for the second and got the third and fifth himself. Arthur would not have got on the scoreboard were it not for the Argentina star's initial rebound either.

Not so sterling Silva

It was never going to be an easy task for Jonathan Silva, but he struggled to provide any resistance on the left and lost possession 12 times before being replaced by Kevin Rodrigues in the 57th minute.

What's next?

Barcelona host Levante in LaLiga on Sunday, when Leganes entertain Real Sociedad.

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