Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has indicated Atletico Madrid will prove to be the Catalans’ biggest rival in the race for the Liga title.
Atletico finished three points clear of Barcelona in 2013-14 to secure its first league title since 1996 and Bartomeu has stressed that Diego Simeone and his men deserve respect following last season’s success.
"We have a lot of rivals in the league, but especially Atletico Madrid, the defending champions," Bartomeu told the official Barcelona website. "They’ll be a very strong opponent once more and they deserve all of our respect. But then again, so do all of the teams."
A Lionel Messi brace and a delightful finish from teenager Munir El Haddadi kicked off Luis Enrique’s Barcelona reign with a 3-0 win over Elche in the Primera Division. Messi got back to his marauding best and scored the opening goal before Javier Mascherano saw red in the closing stages of the first half.
With Barca down to 10 men Munir stole the limelight, latching on to a ball over the top from summer signing Ivan Rakitic before deftly flicking it into the top corner with the outside of his left boot. The teenager left the field to a standing ovation from the Nou Camp crowd just six months after he was playing for Barcelona’s Under-18 side.
Messi had the final say though, shrugging off four defenders and lashing home to remind everyone of his sensational talents just after the hour-mark. Bartomeu then went on to praise Messi in the wake of his match-winning performance in Sunday’s 3-0 win.
"Messi is the best player in the world," he said. "He’s shown that once again. He scored and he created chances. That’s the Messi we all know."