Barca need Ballon d’Or winner Messi firing to pin back Real

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Lionel Messi won his third consecutive Ballon d’Or title in Zurich last night but he now faces the even more difficult task of helping Barcelona catch Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

Messi held off Barca teammate Xavi and Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo to become only the fourth player in history to win the award on three occasions.

Dutchmen Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten, along with Michael Platini are the others to have claimed the title three times.

However, now Messi’s attention must turn to overhauling Real Madrid’s lead at the top of La Liga.

Barca slipped up in their last game with the Catalan side only managing a draw at home against mid-table side Espanyol.

That result – combined with Real’s comfortable 5-1 victory over Granada – means Pep Guardiola’s men are now five points adrift of Jose Mourinho’s side.

Real are now the big 8/13 favourites to win La Liga although their excellent domestic form has made little difference to their Champions League odds and they remain at 5/2 to win Europe’s premiere competition for the first time since 2002.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have drifted to 6/5 to win the Spanish title despite seemingly gaining a big advantage with their 3-1 victory over Real before Christmas.

However, they remain favourites for the Champions League and are 11/8 to win their third title in four years.

Barca may face a tough task to win another La Liga title but, with Messi the huge 4/6 favourite to finish as Champions League top scorer, they look on course to be celebrating another European triumph this May.

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