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Antoine Griezmann Says Barcelona Have 'Still Not Reached Our Ceiling'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21: Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona waves the supporters after the 1-0 during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves at Camp Nou on December 21, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images)
Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann has warned Barcelona's opponents that the Catalan giants are still not at their best after they beat Alaves 4-1 on Saturday.

The victory all-but assures Barca of top spot in La Liga heading into the winter break, unless Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao on Sunday by six goals.

Griezmann told Movistar (h/t Sport's David Rubio): "I am really happy heading into the winter break. I think we deserved them. We have made a good start to the season, but we've still not reached our ceiling and we can improve."

"We did not fear that they would equalise," he added. "Then [Lionel] Messi, the best player in the world, is there [to score the third]. We have a great squad. We all do our work and Messi is there to give a push when the team needs it."

The Frenchman broke the deadlock after 14 minutes on Saturday with a fine finish, before Arturo Vidal doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Pere Pons pulled one back for Alaves in the second half with a bullet header, but Messi restored Barca's two-goal lead when he conjured a spectacular strike out of nothing.

Luis Suarez—who had assisted all three of the Blaugrana's goals—dispatched a penalty to round out the scoring:

Messi's strike capped off another incredible year for him:

B/R Football @brfootball

10 years. 579 goals. 50+ goals in 9 out of 10 calendar years. Leo Messi's decade is done 🌟 https://t.co/BhoyudqEAA

The Argentinian's performances are to be expected, but Barca will be encouraged by the form of summer signing Griezmann.

Having splashed out €120 million to recruit him from Atletico Madrid in the summer, they'll likely have been hoping for more than eight goals and four assists in the 23 appearances he has made for them so far.

It has taken him time to adapt to his new surroundings, but he has gone into the winter break on the back of some strong form. The forward has three goals in his last four La Liga matches, all to open the scoring.

The Spanish Football Podcast observed his improvement:

The Spanish Football Podcast @tsf_podcast

Griezmann has been very good so far. He's getting there...

Barca have scored 47 goals in 18 La Liga matches this season—14 more than nearest rivals Real Madrid—despite Griezmann's adaptation and Messi missing five games through injury. If Griezmann can hit top form in the second half of the campaign, they'll be even more potent in front of goal.

There's plenty of room for improvement at the back, too. Barca have kept five clean sheets in La Liga, but in the 13 matches in which they've conceded, they've shipped 21 goals. Given their firepower at the other end, they'll be a force to be reckoned with if they can become more adept at keeping their opponents out.