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Jordi Alba-Lionel Messi combination is 'life insurance' - Barca's Valverde

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has described the partnership that has developed between Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba this season as the side's "life insurance."

The on-pitch relationship between Messi and Alba has taken on more importance since Neymar's summer departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

With more space to attack on the left, Alba is getting forward increasingly and has already assisted five La Liga goals this season, four for Messi and one for Luis Suarez.

He created two great chances for Messi in Barca's 2-0 win at Villarreal on Sunday, but the Argentina international shot a whisker wide each time.

And Valverde said he was happy with the results the combination is helping Barca, unbeaten in 23 games in all competitions, to achieve.

"Jordi Alba-Messi connections are life insurance for the team," he told a news conference after Barca's win at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

"It's one of our weapons and we use it very well. They understand each other well in attack and the arrival of Jordi Alba is so unexpected by the rival that it helps us a lot."

Both of Messi's chances against Villarreal came when he played the ball left to Alba before receiving it back from the left-back just inside the area.

"Whenever I have the ball, I always look to see where Messi is," Alba told reporters.

"He scores so many times. He is a very important player for the team and he is the best player in the history of football."

Messi's goal against Villarreal, made by Sergio Busquets, was his 525th for Barcelona and matched Gerd Muller's record for the most goals for one club in the top five European leagues.

Alba is enjoying some of his best form since moving to the Camp Nou in 2012, with his tally of assists just one short of the six he managed last season.