Messi applauded upon return to Barca training after birth of son

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Ousmane Dembele was the star performer in the absence of Leo Messi, who was missing following the birth of his third son, Ciro.

Despite losing Neymar in a surprising turn of events during the summer transfer window, Barcelona has somehow managed to stay unbeaten in the La Liga and now lead second-placed Atletico Madrid by 11 points.

Barcelona may be 11 points clear atop the LaLiga table but head coach Ernesto Valverde insisted defending champions and bitter rivals Real Madrid are still in the title race. "While it's still mathematically possible, you can't rule anyone out".

"I don't discount them - and they would do well not to discount themselves either".

With Real Madrid struggling for points and goals, both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have taken full advantage and Zinedine Zidane's men now sit third, and are 15 points behind Barcelona, with hopes of a back-to-back La Liga title slowly disappearing.

Dembele struck up an excellent partnership with new Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Borussia Dortmund last season and the Gunners are said to be keen on reuniting the duo.

"Dembele is a brilliant player and today he demonstrated that", Coutinho said. "The move was flawless".

Messi was back in training with Barcelona on Monday, as Barca prepare for their crunch Champions League round of 16 clash with Chelsea, taking a 1-1 draw back to Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Dembele's individual highlights proved popular amongst Barca supporters on Twitter - it was surely his best game in a Barcelona shirt.

"He's had more success [against Malaga] than on other occasions but the good thing is that he always tries to get at opponents and to dribble".

Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic suggested Dembele's Barcelona teammates have never doubted his quality. He's a player that needs time.

"We know he's just come back from an important injury, especially for the type of player he is".

"It's one more step for him, he helped us a lot and he has a long journey ahead of him at Barca".

Dembele's first goal in Barcelona colours is surely just around the corner.

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