Led by revitalised Messi, Barca aims for three wins in a row

Barcelona prepares for a difficult trip to seventh-placed Granada with captain Lionel Messi in form and improving results.

Lionel Messi said he could see the new Barcelona side was slowly beginning to form and was capable of great things.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Barcelona showed its true potential in an outstanding 3-2 midweek win over Athletic Bilbao but now faces the hard task of following it up when it visits Granada on Saturday searching for an elusive third consecutive La Liga victory.

With Lionel Messi back to his best and linking superbly with teenage sensation Pedri, the Catalans were at times unplayable and recorded their most significant away victory of the season in the league. Messi was at the heart of their play and, during a season in which he has often looked out of touch with his team mates, everything seemed to finally click.

Pedri, 18, was his most reliable partner, serving up Messi's first goal of the evening with an outrageous backheel into his path and showing a level of understanding with him not seen since Andres Iniesta's departure in 2018.

Ronald Koeman reacts to Barca's 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao  

Barca's captain said recently he had dragged the ill-feeling from his bid to leave the club last summer into this campaign, adding that he had struggled to identify with what has become a young and inexperienced team after so many new arrivals.

Yet Messi also said he could see the new side was slowly beginning to form and was capable of great things. Wednesday's exhibition in Bilbao was proof of its progress.

The win was far from the only top performance Barca has produced under manager Ronald Koeman but it has struggled for consistency and is still lacking a run of consecutive victories needed to stage a title challenge.

Atletico Madrid suffers shock exit in second round of Copa del Rey  

Granada, which is seventh in the standings, will not be easy opponent. It has the fifth-best home record in the league, winning five of eight home games while losing once.

Barca is third in La Liga, five points behind second-placed Real Madrid and seven adrift of leader Atletico Madrid, which has two games in hand on both sides.

Atletico, which suffered an embarrassing midweek Copa del Rey defeat at third division Cornella, hosts ninth-placed Bilbao on Saturday when champion Real visits second-bottom Osasuna after enjoying a rare seven days' rest since its last match.

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