Lionel Messi, who did not score or provide an assist for the first time in a home Champions League group game since 2012, struck the bar and had the best of Barca’s six shots on target.

Lionel Messi believes the gap between Barcelona, Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga has closed considerably over the past decade making the league a lot more complicated.

Barcelona lead Madrid on goal difference at the top of the table on 34 points, with Sevilla three points back in third. However, just three points separate fourth-place Real Sociedad on 27 points and Granada in ninth.

Barcelona have lost three and drawn one of their 15 games this season, while Madrid have drawn four and lost one. Messi thinks those mixed results display that the strength of the teams across the league has improved.

“Everything is becoming more and more even,” Argentine forward said at an Adidas media event on Wednesday.

“They have been for several years and we notice that there is more equality, that any team beats any other team, which is increasingly difficult to play as an away team. “The teams have become stronger at home because they know that in order to achieve their goals they must do it well at home.


“This makes everything more equal and more complicated.” Messi has one eye on the season’s first El Clasico with Madrid on December 18 and has no doubt the fixture will once again be pivotal in the title race.

“I expect a very strong Real Madrid,” Messi added. “They have shown it in the last matches, in La Liga, and in the Champions League.

“Barca v Madrid and Madrid v Barca are always special matches. It doesn’t matter how the teams arrive, although it’s true that we both go into it at a good time.”

Before that blockbuster clash, Barcelona first face Real Sociedad in La Liga on Saturday and head into the match after a late 2-1 win over Inter in the Champions League.

Catalan prodigy Ansu Fati scored the match-winning strike in that game to become the competition’s youngest ever goalscorer.

Messi was rested for that mid-week encounter with Barca coach Ernesto Valverde stressing that his non-selection wasn’t an issue.

“Messi getting rest. Nothing more,” Valverde said. “We come from important games and we have important games and I have decided that some players do not come.

“Last year we played a great game here without Messi, by the way.”

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