Messi hurt in Barca draw with Atletico, Madrid misses record

The defending champions said Messi will be sidelined for three weeks with a groin strain

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Barcelona lost Lionel Messi to injury and a chance to beat a title rival on Wednesday, when it was held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league. Messi gingerly walked off the Camp Nou pitch in the 58th minute, just moments before Atletico substitutes Angel Correa and Fernando Torres went on and linked up to equalize.

The defending champions said Messi will be sidelined for three weeks with a groin strain. “With Leo Messi out, football loses, we all lose,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We now have to look for different solutions. Of course we are stronger with Messi, but we are still strong enough.”

The night couldn’t have started better for Barcelona, after seeing Real Madrid’s hopes of breaking its Spanish league record for consecutive wins dashed by a 1-1 draw with Villarreal. Barcelona was in control after Ivan Rakitic broke through Atletico’s staunch defense in the 41st with a header from Andres Iniesta’s cross.

But the match quickly changed course when Messi came up lame following a sprint to fight for a ball with Diego Godin. The Argentina star grimaced as he touched his right thigh. After walking gingerly for a few minutes, he sat on the turf, pulled out his shin guards and unlaced his boots.

Arda Turan hastily warmed up and rushed on to replace him. Sensing an opportunity to transform the game, Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on Torres and Correa. The move immediately paid off when they caught Barcelona napping after a foul. Torres’ glancing touch of a pass left Correa clear to rifle a low shot off the post and into the net in the 61st.

Simeone said that the goal coming on the heels of Messi’s exit was “coincidence, pure coincidence.” “The key to the match was the change we made at the start of the second half,” Simeone said. “We defended very well throughout, but in the second half we were able to be protagonists as well.”

Neymar tried to lead Barcelona in Messi’s absence, while Godin drew a save from goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the final minutes. League leader Real Madrid leads Sevilla by two points. Barcelona is three behind, followed by Atletico four points back.

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