Enrique: Messi at his best in ‘special’ games

Luis Enrique hailed Lionel Messi’s knack of shining in ‘special’ games after helping Barcelona to a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg win over Atletico Madrid.

Goals from Messi and Luis Suarez saw Barcelona take control of the tie, despite Antoine Griezmann’s second header giving Atletico hope ahead of next week’s second leg.

Messi was at his mercurial best in the encounter – almost adding a second from a free-kick and beating three men for a chance that Neymar spurned – which led to high praise from Barcelona boss Enrique.

"Messi is at his best in the big games, the special games," said Enrique.

"He showed his repertoire today. He helped us get superiority in the middle and was also dangerous up front. There are few terms of praise left for what Messi does."

Atletico came close to grabbing a late equaliser after Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres both spurned chances.

But Enrique expected Barcelona to be given a stern test from Atletico, particularly on their own turf.

"To come here and not suffer [would be] ridiculous," he added. "It's the same at Camp Nou — rivals suffer there.

"If we were more effective we could have [killed off] the tie. They then took advantage of our mistakes, pressed us well, caused us problems and created chances.

"But in the end the result strengthens the team, considering how difficult it is to play here. So we are happy with the result. It could have been better; it could have been worse."