BBVA: Barcelona showing no signs of easing up

AFP, MADRID

Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - Page 18

The records continue to tumble for Barcelona, who finished the first half of the season with the highest ever points total in La Liga.

However, talisman Lionel Messi is still not taking the league for granted as they prepare to take on Real Sociedad today.

Their remarkable total of 55 points from a possible 57 is three more than Pep Guardiola’s Barca side managed in the 2010-2011 season after 19 games and gives them an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid while Real Madrid languish a mighty 18 points adrift.

On a personal level, Messi has scored an unrivaled 28 goals in the first half of this campaign and he faces Sociedad knowing that another goal would see him equal the Barca record of scoring in 10 consecutive games, set by Ronaldo in the 1996-1997 season and Mariano Martin, in the 1942-1943 campaign.

“We are in a strong position in the league with the advantage we have, but we cannot ease off. There is Atletico who are a strong side and then Real Madrid cannot be forgotten as they will fight to the end,” Messi said. “There is a long way to go, but we are confident and our aim is to maintain the same level although we know it won’t be easy for us.”

David Villa is expected to miss the trip to San Sebastian through injury and so Messi is again set to play alongside Pedro Rodriguez and Andres Iniesta as Alexis Sanchez struggles for form.

The Chilean was booed by sections of the crowd as a weakened Barca drew 2-2 with Malaga in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid avoided any hiccups with a 2-0 win over Valencia, but tension remains in the camp as was shown by an argument between Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the match.

One of the main questions now is who will be in goal as Madrid face Valencia again in the league, with Spain international Iker Casillas having been replaced by Antonio Adan before Adan was suspended.

“There are a lot of opinions going around and I’m not getting involved in that. All I can say is that I will work hard and the coach will decide. I have no idea who will be picked,” Adan said.

Atletico face a clash with Levante while Real Betis Balompie, surprisingly occupying the fourth Champions League slot after a bright start, take on Athletic Bilbao.

Malaga will look to build on their performance against Barcelona with the visit of RC Celta de Vigo while Rayo Vallecano de Madrid, level on 31 points, play Granada.

At the other end of the table the bottom two, CA Osasuna and RC Deportivo de la Coruna, go head-to-head and RCD Mallorca above them face a rejuvenated RCD Espanyol.

Elsewhere, Sevilla with new boss Unai Emery face Getafe and Real Valladolid take on Real Zaragoza.