Lionel Messi scored a brace as Barcelona secured a crucial 3-2 victory over Valencia to stay alive in the La Liga title race. Valencia took the lead early in the second half when Gabriel Paulista headed in from a Carlos Soler corner.
However, Lionel Messi and Barcelona had other plans as they came storming back into the match. The Catalan giants soon won a penalty for a handball by Lato and although Lionel Messi's initial penalty was saved by Cillessen, the Barcelona captain was on hand to scramble in the rebound which fell kindly to him.
Soon after, Antoine Griezmann continued his recent rich vein of goalscoring form for Barcelona. Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong combined beautifully and although Cillessen managed to save De Jong's header, Griezmann was in the right place at the right time to give Barcelona the lead.
Just a few minutes later, Lionel Messi showed his class. Awarded a free kick 20 yards from goal, the Argentine maestro curled in a beautiful effort to give the Valencia goalkeeper no chance.
Los Che made things interesting once again in the 83rd minute when Carlos Soler scored an absolute thunderbolt to make the scoreline 3-2. However, Barcelona held on to secure a crucial victory. The win sees Barcelona just 2 points away from the top spot with a potential title deciding match coming up against Atletico Madrid next week.
After losing against Granda in midweek, failure to take all 3 points against Valencia could have cost Barcelona dearly. Speaking to Movistar after the win, Barcelona veteran Gerard Pique said:
"We have won a game after the unexpected defeat [vs Granada] to continue fighting until the end. We are still there in the fight. We are there, that was the goal.
"We would like to be able to close the games earlier, they are dynamics and things that could happen. You have to analyze goal by goal, they shoot us less, but the problem is that all those shoots go inside. Thursday's defeat did a lot of damage, but winning against Villarreal and Valencia gives us confidence.
"We prepare us for the Atlético Madrid game with the only idea of winning. It's in our hands. We have to win, there's no other option."
With Lionel Messi in fine form, Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid promises to be an absolute humdinger next weekend. With Real Madrid taking on Sevilla as well, the La Liga title race could well be decided in Game Week 35.
Without further ado, let us take a look at the: