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"It's awesome how he hits those two freekicks, opening up and curling it in".

After scoring his first free-kick, Barcelona's opener, after 17 minutes he then set up Dembélé nine minutes later with a fine ball across the box.

In Saturday's early kick-off, Atletico Madrid kept the pressure on with a 3-0 home win over Alaves, which also puts them on 28 points in third place.

Dembele was the creator this time with a superb pass to Suarez, who slipped his finish through the legs of Lopez from a tight angle.

Understandably, Barca took their foot off the gas in the second half, though the feeling that they could re-find their intensity and cutting edge at a moment's notice remained.

Barca's front three were all in fine form but Messi was the conductor at the heart of all their play. Coach Ernesto Valverde said it was "absurd" Messi finished fifth in the Ballon d'Or voting - he has a point.

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'He is a genuis when it comes to free kicks, ' the commentator yelled when Messi netted his first goal from 30-ish yards away from the goal post. They have not beaten Barcelona in 19 attempts in La Liga now, while a fourth straight league loss means their strong start has faded badly of late.

- Barcelona have scored the most goals from set-pieces in La Liga this season (11).

That's eight more than the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, seven better off than PSG, and five more than Barcelona's fierce rivals Real Madrid.

Messi helped lead the Blaugrana to a 4-0 derby win over Espanyol by bookending goals from Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez with two fantastic free-kicks.

The five-time Ballon d'Or victor has scored more direct free-kicks than any club in Europe's top five leagues in the last four years, but it's this vision and precision that stands out most for me.


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