Spotlight on Neymar at Messi-less Barca

MADRID. With Lionel Messi sidelined with a thigh strain, new signing Neymar will have another chance to steal the headlines from the World Player of the Year when Barcelona host Real Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday.
Brazil forward Neymar Jr. will have another chance to steal the limelight in the absence of Lionel Messi. Net photo.
Brazil forward Neymar Jr. will have another chance to steal the limelight in the absence of Lionel Messi. Net photo.

Saturday

Elche    vs    Espanyol    4pm

Rayo    vs    R Sociedad    6pm

Levante    vs    Real Madrid    8pm

Barcelona    vs    Valladolid    10pm


Sunday

Atletico    vs    Celta Vigo    12pm

Sevilla    vs    Almeria    5pm

Getafe    vs    Betis    7pm

Athletic    vs    Valencia    9pm

MADRID. With Lionel Messi sidelined with a thigh strain, new signing Neymar will have another chance to steal the headlines from the World Player of the Year when Barcelona host Real Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday.

The Brazil forward shone in Messi’s absence in Barca’s 1-0 Champions League success at Celtic on Tuesday and the consensus is that he is already starting to justify the fee of 57 million euros ($77.5 million) the Spanish champions paid Santos in the close season to secure his services.

Concern the frail-looking 21-year-old would be unable to cope with the physicality of the European game appears unjustified and he has shown an impressive ability to take any punishment meted out by opposition defenders while demonstrating a faultless work rate.

He has also showcased his dazzling skills and although he has yet to hit the prolific goal-scoring form he has managed for his country he has set up five of Barca’s goals this term, four in La Liga and one in the Champions League.

Coach Gerardo Martino praised Neymar for his maturity after the Celtic crowd targeted him following the sending off of home captain Scott Brown on Tuesday.

Instead of allowing the provocation to affect his concentration, he responded by freeing Alexis Sanchez on the right with a superb pass and the Chilean crossed for Cesc Fabregas to head the only goal of the game.

Neymar twice came close to scoring himself but Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster pulled off a couple of stunning saves.

“He didn’t need today’s game for us to know the class that he is in,” Martino told a post-match news conference.

Saturday’s game against struggling Real Valladolid, who are 16th in the standings, could be the ideal opportunity for Neymar to add to his one La Liga goal this term.

Barca are seeking a perfect eighth win in eight games and top the table alongside Atletico Madrid, who also have a maximum 21 points and host Celta Vigo on Sunday.

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