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Football | Spain

Lionel Messi © Action Images

Messi aiming for Mueller's record



Lionel Messi will be trying on Saturday to get close to Gerd Mueller's record of 85 goals in a calendar year - and that could be bad news for Zaragoza.

Messi has scored 76 goals in all competitions in 2012 for Barcelona and Argentina, and is just nine shy of the mark the Bayern Munich and Germany idol Mueller established in 1972.

Messi failed to score in Argentina's dull 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a fact which will make even keener to bulge the net on Saturday.

"I am irritated with what happened tonight. This is not the way we wanted to finish the year (with Argentina)," Messi said.

"We didn't do what we should have done from the start. We should have won but we didn't. All matches are important, even if it is a friendly like today."

The little Argentine is top of La Liga's scoring chart with 15 goals, three ahead of Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.

Some sectors of the media in Madrid have tried to claim that Messi is getting on badly with David Villa, Barca's other star striker, using as evidence two recent examples of the strike pair shouting at each other after not receiving passes they were expecting.

Villa, back to full fitness after 10 months out with a broken leg, enjoyed a more pleasant Wednesday than Messi, scoring one in Spain's 5-1 romp in Panama.

However, there was some bad news on Wednesday for the Spanish leaders: yet another injury for Alexis Sanchez.

The stocky winger will be out for up to three weeks after suffering a badly sprained right ankle in Chile's 3-1 defeat against Serbia.

Despite all their injuries, Barca are three points clear at the top over Atletico Madrid and eight above Real Madrid, who are third.

Their other injury victims right now are Carles Puyol, Adriano, Thiago and Isaac Cuenca.

Atletico will be away to lowly Granada on Sunday, hoping that Radamel Falcao rediscovers his goal touch after two games without scoring.

The Colombian hitman is third in the scorers' chart, two goals behind Ronaldo and five behind Messi.

Real will be at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Bilbao have recently recovered from a shaky start to move up to 12th, but will go to Madrid without young midfielders Oscar de Marcos and Ander Herrera, who are both suspended.

Real are without Marcelo and Gonzalo Higuain, though Karim Benzema and Fabio Coentrao should be fit.

Saturday's other games are bottom team Osasuna v fifth-placed Malaga, and inconsistent Valencia v troubled Espanyol.

Defeat in Mestalla could spell the sack for embattled Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Sunday's games in addition to the Granada-Atletico clash are Deportivo Coruna v Levante, Celta Vigo v Mallorca, Getafe v Valladolid and the Seville derby between Sevilla and Betis.

Monday will see Real Sociedad against surprise package Rayo Vallecano, who are seventh.

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