'Special' Messi the difference between Barca and Atleti - Simeone

A pragmatic Diego Simeone acknowledged the tough task of denying Lionel Messi and Barcelona another La Liga title.

Diego Simeone praised Lionel Messi's star quality and admitted the difficulties of repeating Atletico Madrid's "impossible" title win of 2013-14.

Messi guided in a superb first-half free-kick to secure a 1-0 victory over Barca's nearest title rivals on Sunday, moving the league leaders eight points clear at the top.

It was his 600th career goal and marked a major moment in the Blaugrana's bid to win La Liga.

Simeone claimed the Camp Nou result would have been reversed had Messi been on his side.

"Messi is a special player, he made the difference," the Atleti boss told reporters.

"If we take Messi and put him in an Atletico shirt, we win this match 1-0.

"It was an even match. I don't think we lacked application in the first half. However, we did not see our best until the second half."

Despite being dealt just a second defeat in their 27 league games this term, the Rojiblancos now have only a remote chance of claiming what would be a second title triumph in five seasons.

Simeone was pragmatic about his club's hopes of regularly upsetting the Barca-Real Madrid stronghold.

"We have no doubt that we can get closer to our objectives," he said.

"What we cannot do is distance ourselves from the numerical reality that Barcelona and Real Madrid have been dominating for 14 years.

"We did the impossible [in 2013-14] and it is hard to repeat that."