Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde praised Lionel Messi and his "decisive" contribution on Saturday, after the Argentinian came off the bench to help the La Liga leaders salvage a 2-2 draw.

Barca were trailing by two goals but late strikes in the space of two minutes from Luis Suarez and Messi, appearing as a substitute due to injury, preserved the Spanish giants' unbeaten record in the league this season.

Valverde said in his post-match press conference via Marca: "It's true that Messi has an injury niggle, however I had always planned for him to play some part. He has been absent and needed to play.

"Every time he touches the ball he's decisive. With and without Messi the team is different."

Both sides have important Champions League ties next week and few could have predicted such a thrilling game, with Valverde saying the match was an even contest.

"The first half was quite even," he added. "We made some mistakes from corners, but also had some clear chances. Thanks to their midfielders and speed in attack, they were 2-0 up and we risked going 3-0 down.

"In the end we ended up drawing, football is like that."

Barcelona had only conceded 13 league goals in 29 matches prior to Saturday's encounter and Valverde admitted the way they conceded surprised his side.

"We're a team that doesn't give too much away," he said. "The fact they scored a second goal so quickly affected us.

"We haven't known how to handle this kind of situation, it hasn't happened to us during the season."

Barcelona's next match is a Champions League tie at Roma on Wednesday.