Barca ready for crunch week

2015-03-16 11:06
Lionel Messi (Gallo Images)

Madrid - Treble-chasing Barcelona are exactly where they want to be as they prepare for two matches this week that could make or break coach Luis Enrique's first season in charge.

Barca have won 16 of their 18 matches in 2015, their only blemishes defeats to Real Sociedad and Malaga in La Liga, and are in with a chance of repeating 2009's historic haul of Champions League and Spanish league and Cup.

Luis Enrique's men take a 2-1 lead into Wednesday's Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Manchester City, will be at least a point clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga when they host their arch rivals on Sunday and are through to May's King's Cup final to face Athletic Bilbao.

A big reason Barca are riding high is the form of talisman Lionel Messi, who has been scoring for fun since the turn of the year.

The Argentina forward added two more goals in Saturday's 2-0 La Liga win at Eibar, which put Barca four points clear of Real ahead of their match at home to Levante later on Sunday.

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta on the bench, Messi captained the side and put Barca ahead in the 31st minute when he converted a penalty.

The 27-year-old made it 2-0 with a header from a corner 10 minutes into the second half, his 32nd La Liga goal of the campaign and his 43rd in all competitions, two more than he managed in the whole of an injury-disrupted 2013-14.

Two goals clear of Real's Cristiano Ronaldo as La Liga's leading marksman this term, Messi has scored at least twice in 120 matches for club and country, 112 for Barcelona and eight for Argentina.

He has 11 matches left in which to try to match or surpass his own record for goals in a La Liga season of 50 set in 2011-12.

Speculation after the defeat at Sociedad that Messi and Luis Enrique had fallen out and the Argentine could even leave the club he joined as a 13-year-old has long been forgotten.

"We will go into the 'Clasico' as leaders and in perfect shape," Luis Enrique told a news conference after Saturday's victory.

"But we have to focus on City because we are playing for our classification," added the former Barca and Spain midfielder. "Then we will see what happens at the weekend."


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