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La Liga: Messi’s Basque Country brace ups Barcelona unbeaten streak

Lionel Messi

BILBAO, SPAIN - JANUARY 6: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates 1-3 with Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Athletic de Bilbao v FC Barcelona at the Estadio San Mames on January 6, 2021 in Bilbao Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

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Barcelona’s bad start to the season may cost it the title, but Lionel Messi is making sure the Blaugranas aren’t out of the conversation any time soon.

Messi scored twice in Basque Country on Wednesday to lead Barca past Athletic Bilbao 3-2 and make La Liga’s top three look a lot more familiar.

[ LIVE: La Liga table, leaders, box scores ]

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona is unbeaten in seven La Liga matches after the win, with Pedri scoring and assisting one of two Messi goals.

He even played the ol’ hockey assist role on Pedri’s goal (Pedri, by the way, looks really good).

Barca is five points back of second-place Real Madrid after 17 games for both, while leaders Atletico Madrid is another two clear of its city rivals after 15 matches played for Diego Simeone’s men.

Atleti did bow out of the Copa del Rey in stunning fashion on Wednesday, however, losing 1-0 at third-tier side UE Cornella after going down a goal in the seventh minute and a man just after the hour mark.

Barca trailed 1-0 on an Inaki Williams goal in the third minute but Frankie de Jong assisted Pedri in the 17th minute before the 18-year-old set up Messi for a 2-1 lead before halftime.

Messi added a second after the break, and Iker Muniain’s stoppage-time marker for Athletic came too late to change the Basque side’s fate.

Athletic stays ninth with 21 points.

How about the pace on this dart? One day, when we no longer have the Argentine on the pitch, be sure to remember that a down half-season for the world’s best player on a down Barcelona side at age 33 meant 12 goals and six assists in 20 matches.

Follow @NicholasMendola