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Messi and Neymar strike fear into PSG
Editorial

Messi and Neymar strike fear into PSG

With the highly-anticipated match against Paris Saint-Germain looming, Lionel Messi and Neymar lead a spectacular performance by Barcelona, who demolished Celta Vigo 5-0 at the Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana forwards appear to be firing on all cylinders, which is not good news for the French giants.

Messi and Neymar, authors of three goals on Saturday night, seamlessly connected all match long, overwhelming the Galician side, one of the peskiest rivals throughout Luis Enrique's three-year tenure as Barcelona coach.

The Argentinian increased his lead as LaLiga's top scorer in the 2016/17 campaign.

With 23 goals to his name, the 29-year-old is not only the favourite to win the Pichichi, but he also is a serious contender for the Golden Boot, which was won by his teammate Luis Suarez last season.

Furthermore, Messi has unlocked a new achievement in his long record list.

Against Celta, the Rosario native became the foreign player with the most appearances for the same club, having tallied 371 LaLiga matches wearing the Barcelona uniform.

Messi and Neymar exemplified their utter dominance in the Catalans' first two goals versus Celta.

Firstly, it was the Argentinian's time to shine with a magnificent solo goal that started around the midfield area.

Five minutes before half-time, Messi left Neymar open with a great pass, which the Brazilian sent to the back of the net with a phenomenal chip over Sergio Alvarez.

The ex-Santos star was arguably the man of the match, thus extending his sweet form in 2017.

Wenger accepts criticism for not starting Alexis Sanchez

Almost inexplicably, Alexis Sanchez was left on the bench for Arsenal as the Gunners faced Liverpool, and Arsene Wenger was quick to take responsibility and the blame for the questionable decision.

The London side were one team with the Chilean and one team without him, and although the Champions League is coming up, there isn't much reason to leave a star player on the bench in such a manner.

"Everyone will reach the same conclusion, but I am strong enough to analyse the consequences," Wenger said in his post-match comments. "I wanted to play with two strikers who were strong in the air and then bring in Alexis in the second half.

"It isn't easy to come to make a decision like that, and I have to stand by it."

With the defeat, Arsenal slip out of the top four.

Simeone: I'm happy where I am with a group of players who compete

Atletico Madrid eased to a 3-0 win over Valencia on Sunday afternoon with a spirited performance, which pleased Diego Simeone.

The Argentine was coaching his 200th LaLiga match and admitted that he was shocked to have lasted so long in the role, while insisting that he remains content at the club.

"I sincerely never imagined I would reach 200 matches with the club," he confessed in his post-match press conference.

"I am happy in the place where I am.

"I have a group of players who have competed with all their heart for five years, despite the difficulties of it, and today they showed what kind of team they are."

The only thing the tactician wants to see more of from his team is some regularity in their results, having won just six of their past 13 matches.

"I hope we can achieve the consistency we've been asking for," he told the assembled media.

"Besides the defeat against Barcelona, in which we still played well, we have been on the right path.

"We are now entering the most important part of the season, where every match is a final, and we'll see who is the strongest."

For Simeone, the 3-0 victory was the perfect response to a tough Thursday night, when Los Rojiblancos drew with Deportivo La Coruna and also suffered a scare with Fernando Torres' head injury.

"After playing on Thursday, we responded really well, both physically and mentally," he insisted.

"We understood what we had to do.

"The team hit [Valencia] in the first half and we could have scored more.

"It was the same in the second half, as we played a very complete match."

One of the most interesting tactical aspects of the Sunday afternoon outing saw Yannick Carrasco playing away from his preferred left wing, the logic of which was explained in the press conference.

"The idea behind putting Carrasco on the right was that we thought he could create problems for [Jose Luis] Gaya," the Argentine told reporters.

"We had a lot of vertical play in that area."

Simeone will now have a full week to prepare for Atletico's next match, which will be next Saturday's trip to Granada.

Fernando Torres in attendance at the Calderon

Following his harrowing injury scare against Deportivo La Coruna, Fernando Torres was at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Saturday afternoon to watch his side in action against Valencia.

The striker was the victim of a nasty head injury during his side's 1-1 draw at Estadio Riazor on Thursday night, which saw him hospitalised in Galicia.

However, El Nino wanted to be in attendance to watch his side in action against Los Che and after returning to the Spanish capital, he instantly made his way to the Estadio Vicente Calderon to cheer on his teammates.

The striker is set to return to Atletico training on Monday, although it is unclear yet if Torres will train with the rest of the squad as normal or follow a specialised plan.

Sampaoli: Sevilla proud to be fighting with Real Madrid and Barcelona

As he prepares his side for a trip to Alaves, Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli insisted that it is a source of pride that they remain very much in the title race.

A victory for Sampaoli's side would move them back to within one point of Real Madrid and two behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona.

"What we must value and take pride in is the fact that we have been fighting with them for so long," the Sevilla coach told reporters.

"Our team continues to be up there challenging them and that is something we can take value in without a doubt.

"On Monday, our intention is the same as always and that is to win. We are playing at a difficult ground against a tough opponent but we will be looking to win."

While Sampaoli did acknowledge that being without the suspended Samir Nasri will be a blow for his side, he has faith in Franco Vazquez to come in and fill the void.

"Samir is a very important player for us and we will try to replace him in the best way possible so that the performance of the team isn't affected," he continued.

"All of our players need to be at their best level to come in and play a part and Vazquez is one of those players. He has had some rest recently but that hasn't been a punishment."

Bilic keen to learn from West Ham's turbulent season

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic would not change a thing about the club's topsy-turvy campaign, saying both he and his players were stronger for the "priceless" experience.

A slow start to the season left West Ham in the thick of the relegation battle and raised questions about Bilic's future. However the club have navigated through the tricky period to climb to 11th ahead of Monday's Premier League London derby against leaders Chelsea.

"I wouldn't change it. When you've made it and you get out of that, the experience is priceless. I wouldn't swap when I was under pressure or the team was under pressure. I wouldn't swap it for a steady season," Bilic told British media.

West Ham have also had to deal with a host of off-field incidents such as moving to the London Stadium, fan unrest, crowd trouble, an early exit from the Europa League and Dimitri Payet's move to Olympique de Marseille in January.

"I consider this season as a great one for me individually, and for the team, and for the club, because this season we experienced a lot of negatives, a lot of positive things, but mainly a lot of new things," Bilic added.

"But was it hard? Yes. It's still hard. But you know that saying: 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger'? We don't want to start next season like we started this one."

 
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