Simeone: I love challenging Messi and Barcelona!

Diego Simeone is relishing a LaLiga title battle with Lionel Messi and Barcelona and says he is already proud of Atletico Madrid for their efforts this season.

Atletico moved back to within seven points of Barca on Sunday thanks to a 2-0 win over Villarreal, in which Alvaro Morata scored his first goal for the club.

The victory came after Barca defeated Sevilla 4-2 on Saturday, with Messi once more proving the inspiration as he scored a hat-trick and set up Luis Suarez for the fourth goal.

Rather than be daunted by Messi's form, though, Simeone is enjoying the challenge of trying to chase the Catalans down.

"I love it," he said when asked about Atletico's chances of taking the title away from Barca. "I watched Barcelona yesterday. I am prouder of my players and the season we are having."

Morata ended a nine-game barren run in league football with his side's first goal at the Wanda Metropolitano, before Saul Niguez made the result safe late on.

The striker admitted it was a relief to score after seeing goals disallowed against Real Madrid and Juventus in the last week.

Simeone, too, was thrilled to see the Chelsea loanee get off the mark.

"Morata had already scored two legal goals [against Madrid and Juventus] and by misinterpretation they were disallowed," he said.

"We saw him doubt whether to celebrate it or not. The poor guy had bad luck for the two goals he scored legally, which were disallowed. But he keeps improving, the team needs him and we are happy.

"The three games this week were difficult and even more so with the added emotion from Wednesday. At the start of the match, they had a chance that [Jan] Oblak dealt with as he tends to do. Then we found our lines and Morata managed to score. We were happy about that."

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