Brief news from La Liga ahead of
this weekend's matches:
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi believes the Catalan club's
great rivals Real Madrid have improved since Barca beat them to
win the Spanish Super Cup in August.
"Madrid have strengthened their squad well with the aim of
being better this season and they have achieved that," the
Argentine World Player of the Year was quoted as saying in Marca
sports daily on Friday.
"They have grown since August and they are stronger than
last year," he told the Madrid-based newspaper. "But we are too
with the additions we have made."
Jose Mourinho's Real side, who have won nine in a row in
La Liga and the Champions League, can stretch their lead over
Barca at the top to four points with a win at home to Osasuna on
Barca, bidding for a fourth straight domestic title, play
later on Sunday at Athletic Bilbao.
The pick of the weekend's matches pits third against fourth,
with surprise packages Levante hosting their more illustrious
city rivals Valencia on Saturday.
Levante, who briefly topped the table for the first time in
their 102-year history, are a point behind Barca in third and
two ahead of Valencia.
Barca's game at Bilbao will reunite their Chile forward
Alexis Sanchez with his former national team coach Marcelo
Bielsa, the Argentine who took over at the Basque club for the
start of this season.
Sanchez, who joined from Udinese in the close season, came
on as a substitute in Tuesday's Champions League game at
Viktoria Plzen after an injury absence of nearly two months.
Valencia will be without their Argentine playmaker Ever
Banega for the trip across town after he twisted ligaments in
his right knee in Tuesday's 3-1 Champions League win at home to
Banega will be sidelined for four to six weeks and the
injury is a further blow to coach Unai Emery after creative
midfielder Sergio Canales was last week ruled out for three to
six months because of a serious knee injury.
Real Betis coach Pepe Mel is under pressure ahead of
Saturday's game at home to big-spending Andalusian rivals Malaga.
Promoted Betis won their opening four matches but have lost
their last six and slipped to 12th.
"We are tense and anxious to get back on the pitch, angry
that things have not worked out for us despite all the work,"
Mel told a news conference on Friday.
"We want to win to put everyone's minds at rest, as well as
our own," he added.
Atletico Madrid have been their usual erratic selves this
term, going seven games without a win in all competitions after
a strong start, but showed what they are capable of in
Thursday's 4-0 Europa League win at home to Udinese.
Spain Under-21 striker Adrian, who scored twice at the
Calderon, said the win had been good for morale.
"These two straight wins were important for the team," he
told reporters. Atletico beat Real Zaragoza 3-1 at home last
weekend and are 10th on 13 points.
Dutch players imprisoned for shocking death
One more season, but then...
Malaga man maintains Manchester/Madrid mania
Maracana applauds deep-lying playmaker
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010