Barcelona and Lionel Messi must beat Atletico Madrid in this title-influencing six pointer

With four teams still in contention to win Spanish football’s most coveted prize, Lionel Messi has a crucial opportunity to guide Barcelona to glory once again.

Barcelona continued in their relentless pursuit of a 27th La Liga title last weekend with a valuable victory in Valencia. A brilliant brace from Lionel Messi sealed a 3-2 win for Blaugrana in a five-goal thriller at the Mestalla.

The Catalonian outfit remain in third place, fiercely breathing down the necks of age-old foes Real Madrid in second and a resolute Atletico Madrid side in first.

With just four games left to play, this weekend is crucial in the race for the title.

With second playing fourth in Real and Sevilla at the Bernabeu on Sunday, and first facing third - Barcelona vs Atletico at the Nou Camp - it's fair to say that very few La Liga campaigns have been as close as this.

html) */?>

With 28 goals and nine assists to his name in 32 games for Blaugrana, Messi has been instrumental in Barcelona's title challenge. It was the Argentine who helped inspire a 19-game undefeated streak in the league after a shaky start to the season under Ronald Koeman.

Messi will be determined to inspire another crucial Catalonian victory and shroud himself in glory once again.

You do not want to miss La Liga this weekend!

Tip of the fixture

Messi has scored 28 goals this season in La Liga and continues to dominate the league's golden boot race.

Barcelona's number-ten to score first in a 2-1 win is priced at 26/1 on Paddy Power.

Stat attack

With an astonishing 32 goals to his name, Messi is the fixtures all-time top scorer by a significant distance - bettering legendary Blaugrana forwards Cesar Rodriguez (14) and Hristo Stoichkov (12) to the crown.

He has scored the second most goals of his career against Atletico, only scoring more goals against Sevilla, of whom he has registered 38 against.

The Argentine has won 24 of the 42 games he has played against Los Colchoneros. He has played in 10 draws and been on the losing side eight times, leaving him with a win ratio of 57%.

In addition to his scoring tally, Barcelona's number-ten has recorded nine assists against Simeone's side, averaging one every 4.6 games.

Of the 23 games Messi has scored in this fixture Barcelona have an 82% win ratio, emerging victorious 19 times, losing and drawing twice respectively.

He has registered more than one goal contribution in a game against Atletico on 11 occasions, and should a 12th instance occur this weekend, the Catalonian outfit will undoubtedly get the better of their title rivals.

Memorable matches (Hat-trick edition)

Barcelona 3-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga

February 5, 2011

Messi scored a tremendous trio of goals to single-handedly beat Atletico as Barcelona secured a 16th straight victory.

Pep Guardiola's side took the lead within 20 minutes as Messi jinxed through a number of Atletico's outfield players and outfox David De Gea in a one-on-one situation. 

The South American was handed a lifeline in the form of his second when David Villa's shot deflected off Tomas Ufjalusi. The ball fell into Messi's path who doubled their lead with a routine finish.

Despite sustained periods of improvement from Los Colchoneros, they were unable to find a breakthrough and were inevitably punished for their lack of potency in-front of goal. Messi then tapped in a saved Villa shot to make it three.

A win for Barcelona saw them extend their lead over Real Madrid in La Liga to ten points.

Atletico Madrid 1-3 Barcelona (2-5 aggregate)

Copa Del Rey, quarter-final first-leg

January 6, 2009

Three important goals from Messi sealed an important first-leg victory at the Vicente Calderon to help Barcelona beat Atletico en-route to them winning the 2008/09 Copa Del Rey title.

Following a sublime one-two with Alves, the Argentine put the visitors in-front after 11 minutes, striking a low-driven effort past Coupet.

A tense battle ensued between the two teams in the 45 minutes that followed, with both sides pushing for an all-important goal. Nevertheless, it was Messi who doubled Blaugrana's lead from the penalty spot after 57 minutes, having won the spotkick himself.

Despite Ufjalusi pulling a goal back for the hosts, Barcelona's wondrous winger made it three, converting with his right foot after an exquisite ball from Andres Iniesta.

Barcelona went on to defeat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the final, as they lifted the trophy aloft once more.

Barcelona 5-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga

September 24, 2011

A heroic hat-trick and assist from Messi ensured a 5-0 thrashing of Atletico at the Nou Camp as Blaugrana made it 13 goals in two home games.

David Villa put the Catalonian outfit ahead after just nine minutes, latching on to an incisive Xavi pass to slot past Thibaut Courtois.

From that moment on, every Barcelona goal involved Messi - starting with Blaugrana's second six minutes later as a venomous shot from the Argentine deflected off Miranda, who scored an unfortunate goal to double the hosts' lead.

Their third and Messi's first of the night was a moment of brilliance only he is capable of. Following a swift short corner routine with Pedro, he weaved in and out of the Atletico defence, finding his way to goal before finishing in style. Glorious.

It's rather impressive to score a single 'one in a million goal' in your career, but not for Catalonia's illustrious Argentine, who managed to bag two in a single game. Picking up the ball 35 yards from goal and had mesmerised the Atletico defence and Courtois before anyone had really processed what had happened.

Rounding off a brilliant night for Barcelona, Messi grabbed his third in the 90th minute after a clever one-two with Villa to score in emphatic fashion.

READ MORE: The remarkable goalscoring feats of Liverpool ace Mo Salah against Southampton