Messi marks new milestone in Barcelona victory

Messi’s 365th goal in Spain’s top flight was followed by strikes from Luis Suarez and Paulinho as Barcelona stretched their lead at the top of the table back to nine points over Atletico Madrid. They are also now a massive 16 points clear of defending champions Real Madrid, who were held to a 2-2 draw away at Celta Vigo despite a brace from Gareth Bale, and remain fourth. Barcelona are still unbeaten in La Liga this season and on Monday will officially unveil Coutinho following the Brazilian’s €160-million (US$192 million) move from Liverpool. With all the talk about Coutinho, coach Ernesto Valverde was eager for his side to keep their focus on winning their first league outing since beating Real Madrid 3-0 in the Clasico on Dec 23. “Levante had not lost away since September. We were very good in the first half, but the rhythm was not the same in the second half,” said Valverde. Barcelona’s previous record recruit Ousmane Dembele – a €105-million buy from Borussia Dortmund in the summer – was included in the line-up for the first time since tearing his hamstring nearly four months ago. He came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, including from one 20-yard strike that was beaten away by Levante goalkeeper Oier Olazabal. “I think he has to bring something to the team, and he also has to face up to the competition for places and for the tackles he will face on the pitch, from opponents who don’t want to let him… [Read full story]

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