Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has played down his side’s prospects of making a late challenge for the La Liga title. The Capital outfit currently trail Barcelona by nine points in the standings but Simeone has already admitted defeat after another Lionel Messi master class at Sevilla last weekend.

Barcelona were on course to suffer their first league defeat of the season after trailing Sevilla 2-0 during the second period, but they somehow managed to turn their fortunes around. The Catalan giants scored two late goals in the space of just 53 seconds, and the latter came from the feet of Argentina superstar Messi, who shocked the Andalusian faithful.

Speaking to reporters, Simeone stressed that Atleti have no chances of scripting a comeback against a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona. He said: “We're having a very important league campaign. We've already seen what happened at Sevilla. Without Messi, Sevilla would have won 2-0. With Messi on the pitch, Barca won 2-0, although the final score was 2-2. Messi is the decisive factor. We want to keep improving our numbers from last season.”

Barcelona will now shift their focus to Champions League football where they entertain AS Roma in the first-leg of the quarter-final at the Camp Nou. During the same period, Atletico are due to host a Europa League game against Sporting Lisbon, and both teams will be aiming to put on strong displays in order to make progress towards the final four of their respective competitions.

Ernesto Valverde’s side are very much certain to reclaim the Spanish league title this term, but there is still plenty to play for teams between second and fourth positions. Atletico Madrid has a key cross-town derby against Real Madrid next weekend, and a positive result would see them cement the runner-up position. Should this not be the case, Atleti risk dropping within a couple of points of Valencia, who have literally assured themselves of fourth spot. Los Che is 15 points ahead of fifth-placed Villarreal.