Betis next victims on the block for Barca

MADRID. Having sealed their place in the Champions League last 16 with two games to spare and Lionel Messi returning to something near his best, Barcelona are eagerly awaiting Sunday’s La Liga clash with Real Betis.

Saturday
Real Madrid    vs    R Sociedad    5pm
Getafe    vs    Elche    7pm
Athletic    vs    Levante    9pm
Celta Vigo    vs    Rayo   

Sunday
Espanyol    vs    Sevilla    1pm
Valencia    vs    Valladolid    6pm
Villarreal    vs    Atletico    8pm
Betis    vs    Barcelona    10pm

MADRID. Having sealed their place in the Champions League last 16 with two games to spare and Lionel Messi returning to something near his best, Barcelona are eagerly awaiting Sunday’s La Liga clash with Real Betis.

Messi ended a mini goal drought with a double in Wednesday’s 3-1 Group H win at home to AC Milan and the Argentine World Player of the Year will be looking to put a run of four domestic outings for the unbeaten leaders without scoring behind him when struggling Betis visit the Nou Camp.

The 26-year-old, whose season has been disrupted by a couple of minor muscle injuries, delighted his adoring fans when he smashed in a penalty after 30 minutes and sent them into ecstasy when he dashed through the middle and scored with a trademark dinked effort seven minutes from time.

Talk of a Messi crisis dominated the buildup to the game, but his record this term is one most players could only dream of - six goals in three Champions League appearances and eight in 10 La Liga outings.

“I’m calm about the recuperation,” Messi said on the UEFA website (www.uefa.com) on Thursday.

“I’m getting my rhythm back bit by bit and I think it really helps to have 90 minutes, then another 90 minutes, back to back so that I can gradually re-establish the tempo and the form I had before,” he added.

Barca have dropped only two points - in a 0-0 draw at Osasuna last month - and are a point clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who play at Villarreal on Sunday.

Barca’s arch rivals Real Madrid are a further five points back in third and host fellow Champions League participants Real Sociedad on Saturday.

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