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Barcelona are still the best, insists Atletico manager

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid will take on Barcelona on Sunday. Photograph: (Getty)

AFP Madrid, Spain Feb 25, 2017, 04.38 PM (IST)

Struggling Barcelona are still the best team in the world, according to the manager of their next opponents Atletico Madrid.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone said despite the "one bad game against Paris", Barcelona remain the team to beat in Europe.

Luis Enrique's Barcelona have had a nightmarish recent days, with his team being thrashed 4-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League and then producing a sluggish performance to beat lowly Leganes last weekend.

And despite Atletico being the favourites to march to the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition after producing a stunning 4-2 awat performance against Bayer Leverkusen, Simeone said: "Barcelona are still the best in the world."

"We played three extraordinary halves against them and still didn't get through, that shows that they are better."

Simeone was referring to the last three matches his team has played against the blaugranas.

A poor opening first 45 minutes in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie cost Atletico dear as wonder goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi put Barca well on their way to a 3-2 aggregate win.

Luis Enrique, meanwhile, is hoping a first midweek off since the turn of the year is what Barca needed to recharge their batteries and recover their form.

"It is the first free midweek we have had in 2017. The schedule has been brutal and it is evident that takes its toll," said Enrique.

"The week allowed us to work on things, for the team to rest and analyse what is going on with the team."

Real Madrid's defeat to Valencia in midweek means Barca still trail their title rivals by just a point.

And Luis Enrique's men can go top for at least a few hours with victory at the Vicente Calderon, with Madrid not in action until later on Sunday at Villarreal.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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