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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Messi returns to club duty after Argentina heroics as Barcelona train for Atletico Madrid - in pictures

Argentina captain's hat-trick sent his nation to the 2018 World Cup but focus is now on the Primera Liga trip to the capital.

Lionel Messi was the centre of attention this week after his hat-trick led Argentina to a 3-1 win against Ecuador to ensure their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer.

However, there has been little time to rest or celebrate for one of the world's greatest ever players as Barcelona face Atletico Madrid on Saturday in the first big test of their Primera Liga title credentials.

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Messi, along with the rest of his teammates, returned from international duty and straight into preparations for the trip to Atletico's new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

Barcelona have made a perfect start to the Primera Liga season, winning all seven matches to hold a seven point lead over their fierce rivals - and reigning champions - Real Madrid.

Real Madrid travel to 13th-placed Getafe on Saturday seeking their third straight win after a shaky start to the season lose at home to Real Betis and held to draws by Levante and Valencia.