MADRID - La Liga leaders Barcelona can
take their unbeaten run to 28 matches if they can avoid defeat
at home to Malaga on Sunday, passing the previous
club record set by Rinus Michels 37 years ago.
The Dutch father of "Total Football" went 27 matches
unbeaten in all competitions before losing 2-0 away to
Atletico Madrid having already secured the 1974 league title.
He would no doubt have approved of Barca's display in
matching his tally on Wednesday.
The champions crushed second division leaders Real Betis
5-0 in a King's Cup quarter-final first leg, shaking off
spirited visitors with a style of football he introduced to
the world and which has become the Catalan club's trademark.
Michels had one of the game's greatest players in Johan
Cruyff at the heart of his Barca team, and Pep Guardiola has
The Argentine 23-year-old celebrated winning his second
World Player of the Year award with a devastating hat-trick to
lead his team to victory. He has now scored 28 goals in 25
appearances this season.
"He played a great game and I have to congratulate him,"
Guardiola, who was shortlisted for the 2010 Coach of the Year
award, told reporters.
"Once again, he has scored three goals and has played very
well. All I am concerned with is that he is happy and that he
stays that way."
Barca top La Liga with 49 points from 18 matches, two
ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who visit struggling Almeria
on Sunday, and 32 points above 16th-placed Malaga.
The south-coast side were bought by a member of the Qatar
royal family in June and have been the most active club in La
Liga in the January transfer window, with five new recruits on
board so far.
They have landed Argentine defender Martin Demichelis and
Brazilian midfielder Julio Baptista, who both played at the
World Cup finals last year, as well as goalkeeper Sergio
Asenjo and midfielders Enzo Maresca and Ignacio Camacho.
Real head off to Almeria looking to give the returning
Kaka more minutes as he rebuilds his match fitness after five
months on the sidelines.
The Brazilian playmaker's return will help cover for the
loss of Gonzalo Higuain, who will miss most of the rest of the
season after having surgery on a back problem on Tuesday.
Almeria are only kept off the foot of the standings by a
superior goal difference from Real Zaragoza after three
consecutive league defeats.
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