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SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISIÓN

2018/2019 Season

POS TEAM W D L PTS
1 Barcelona 9 4 2 31
2 Sevilla 8 4 3 28
3 Atletico 7 7 1 28
View Full Table »
BarcelonaBarcelona
Tottenham HotspurTottenham Hotspur
1
1
FT
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Barcelona's Lionel Messi make the 'extraordinary look routine' - Ernesto Valverde

ESPN FC's Paul Mariner gives his plaudits to PSV for their efforts, but says Lionel Messi's class shone through once again in Barcelona's UCL opener.

BARCELONA -- Ernesto Valverde said Lionel Messi makes the "extraordinary look routine" after he scored three goals to help Barcelona get their European campaign off to a winning start against PSV Eindhoven.

Messi's treble against the Dutch champions was his eighth in the Champions League, moving him clear of Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo with seven, as the player to have netted the most hat tricks in the competition.

He scored the opening goal with a brilliant free kick in the first half and added two more in the final 15 minutes after Ousmane Dembele's solo effort as Barca ran out 4-0 winners.

"It's a blessing to have Messi in your side and a problem for anyone that doesn't [have him]," Barca coach Valverde said in his postgame news conference.

"He makes the extraordinary look routine. Today he scored three goals, with the free kick coming at the moment we needed it in terms of opening the game up. It was a magisterial free-kick, and he never tires of scoring hat-tricks.

"We're seeing something unique, something that hasn't been seen for many years. As a player in La Liga, I don't remember anyone like him. And it will be tough to find anyone else like him in the future."

Messi's 32nd-minute opener, angled into the top corner, was the second goal he's scored via a free kick this season, following his under-the-wall effort against Alaves last month, and his eighth in 2018.

"We have seen some great free-kick takers in the past, but I don't know if we've seen anyone with the effectiveness of Messi at the moment," Valverde added.

Teammate Ivan Rakitic joked that it's reached the point where he is already thinking about the goal celebration when Messi lines up a dead ball.

"What a left foot he has," Rakitic told reporters. "I hope he goes on and on like this forever and scores many more goals. When he takes free kicks now you go directly to the place where you're going to celebrate them!"

While Messi once again stole the headlines, there was another impressive performance from Dembele, who scored his fifth goal of the season after spinning two defenders and curling home from 25 yards.

After missing the majority of last season injured following his €105 million move from Borussia Dortmund, the French forward has scored the key goal in narrow wins over Sevilla, Real Valladolid and Real Sociedad.

"Dembele is doing well and is scoring important goals but that comes from hard work," Valverde said. "He's working hard, trying to help the team and is someone that is able to unbalance the opposition. He's got that continuity in the side now, which is helping, but he has earned that."

Visiting manager Mark van Bommel had no complaints with the defeat, but did feel the final result slightly flattered Barca.

"To be honest, we didn't expect to lose this heavily," he said. "But I think that, given how the game went, the final score is a little exaggerated. I spoke to [Valverde] about that and we agreed.

"I didn't think it was inevitable we would lose this game, not at all, but it's evident that our team's the youngest in the Champions League and we're still a side that's developing."

Van Bommel also lauded five-time world player of the year Messi, saying: "For me he is the best player in the world. It's strange to me that he does not win the Ballon d'Or every single year."

Messi has lifted the Champions League four times with Barca since making his debut in 2004, although the Catalans have underachieved in the competition since last winning it in 2015.

They have failed to get beyond the quarterfinals for the last three seasons while arch rivals Real Madrid have won club soccer's most coveted prize three years in a row.

Messi inherited the captain's armband after Andres Iniesta departed last June and made a pointed speech about his team's recent failings in the Champions League last month, telling fans on the Nou Camp pitch: "I promise to do everything to bring that beautiful trophy back here."

Barca will face gruelling competition to win the trophy from the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus and Real Madrid should they progress to the last 16.

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