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Messi on target as Barca stay four clear; Valencia keep pace; Atleti held

Lionel Messi and Paulinho found the net as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 to restore their four-point advantage at the top of La Liga.

Valencia's victory at Alaves earlier in the day had cut Barca's lead at the summit to a single point but they edged past Bilbao on Saturday night to restore their cushion.

Messi started and finished a brilliant Barca move in the 36th minute, slotting the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga to take his tally for the season to 12 league goals.

And after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had made a vital save to keep Aritz Aduriz out in the closing stages, Paulinho scored the visitors' second on the counter-attack after Kepa had parried Luis Suarez's shot into his path.

Both sides created plenty of chances and each hit the woodwork -- Messi and Paulinho for Barca and Raul Garcia for the hosts.

The result was also Ernesto Valverde's first as a visitor to the club he represented with distinction as player and manager for many years.

Valencia extended their winning streak to seven matches to stay on Barcelona's heels at the top of the table with a 2-1 victory at Alaves.

The win came thanks to goals from Simone Zaza and Rodrigo, whose second-half penalty restored the lead following an equaliser early in the second half from Alexis.

Zaza fired a powerfully struck opener in the 34th minute, collecting Andreas Pereira's cross from the right and driving the ball high into the near top corner.

Alexis headed a leveller from a corner in the 49th minute, but a deliberate handball close to his own goal from Alaves defender Rodrigo Ely then proved costly.

It allowed Valencia's Rodrigo to slot in the 66th-minute penalty that secured three points, moving Valencia at least temporarily to just one point behind leaders Barcelona.

Barcelona were due in action later on Saturday, with an evening kick-off at Athletic Bilbao.

Atletico Madrid are still undefeated and in fourth after notching their fifth draw, a disappointing 1-1 result at home versus Villarreal.

Argentina forward Angel Correa scored his fourth league goal at the hour mark to put the hosts in front. But Atletico were unable to hold the lead, allowing Villarreal to draw level with 10 minutes left through a clean header by Carlos Bacca.

Antoine Griezmann had the best early chance for Atletico when he hit the post, and Saul Niguez was unable to score from the rebound, which was blocked by defender Victor Ruiz at the goal line.

And just before half-time, a powerful header by Diego Godin forced a brilliant save from Mariano Barbosa.

Unable to score, Griezmann excelled as a playmaker in the second half, and lobbed a one-touch pass towards Correa, who deftly controlled the ball on the run and swiped a strike between the keeper's left shoulder and the nearest post for the lead.

It could have been two for Atletico had Kevin Gameiro done the same shortly after, but he shot straight at Barbosa and the miss proved costly. Bacca tied it when he out-jumped Godin on a cross from a corner and beat a retreating Jan Oblak.

Atletico haven't lost in 14 straight games and face another pressure match on Tuesday against Qarabag in the Champions League.