Leo Messi will achieve an exceptional feat if he scores in Barça’s league game at Almeria tomorrow (Saturday 4 pm). Having equalled Raúl’s prestigious all-time Champions League goals record with his double at Ajax on Wednesday the Argentinian could complete a remarkable week of records by equalling or possibly surpassing Telmo Zarra’s total of 251 goals in la Liga.
Messi’s recent history at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos suggests he has a very good chance to score his 251st goal tomorrow, having been stuck on 250 for the last two games. He scored twice in the 2-2 draw in the 2009/10 season and then netted a hat-trick in Barça’s 0-8 victory the following season. Almeria then had a couple of seasons in the second division but they were back in the top league last season and Messi grabbed another goal in a 0-2 win.
Barça haven’t had the best preparation for tomorrow’s game. Following Wednesday’s win in Amsterdam the return flight from Schipol was cancelled which meant an overnight stay in the Dutch city. The team flew back to Barcelona yesterday and trained and then trained again this afternoon before flying to Almeria this evening with an expected time of arrival of 8.30 pm.
Luis Enrique has named his available 20 players for the trip including all three goalkeepers and Munir El-Haddadi. There is no place for Iniesta, Mathieu, Sergi Roberto and Vermaelen who continue on the injured list. There is no reason for Lucho not to play his strongest line-up though following the recent run of games he may decide to rest a full-back or one of the front three. There will again be interest to see whether Gerard Piqué gets a game after missing out against Celta and Ajax. There is no physical problem with the defender and Luis Enrique has insisted it is simply a technical decision and not a punishment.
Almeria escaped relegation last season by a point but their president Alfonso García showed faith in coach Francisco Rodriguez by keeping him on for another season. The Andaluz team have taken nine points so far this campaign which puts them in 14th position in the table though a battle against relegation seems inevitable. They have only taken three points at home where they have managed just three draws (Espanyol, Cordoba and Elche) and two 0-1 defeats (Atlético and Athletic).
Barça really need to win tomorrow’s game after slipping behind Madrid, Valencia and Atlético to fourth in the table. It will be great if Messi can take Zarra’s record and it would also be good to see a first blaugrana goal from Luis Suarez, but with another international break starting after the game Luis Enrique won’t care who scores as long as Barça take the three points to stay in contention at the top.
Barça 20-man squad list: Bravo, Ter Stegen, Masip, Alves, Montoya, Douglas, Adriano, Alba, Piqué, Bartra, Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Rakitic, Rafinha, Pedro, Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Munir.
Almeria: Ruben; Ximo Navarro, Mauro dos Santos, Trujillo, Dubarbier; Thomas, Verza, Azeez; Thievy, Hemed, Edgar Mendez.
Barça: Bravo; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Rafinha, Busquets, Rakitic; Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
Prediction: Almeria 0 Barça 3
Date: Saturday 8 November 2014. Kick-off 4 pm local time.