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Football | Spain

Lionel Messi © Action Images

Barca show no signs of easing up



The records continue to tumble for Barcelona, who finished the first half of the season with the highest ever points total in La Liga.

But talisman Lionel Messi is still not taking the league for granted as they now prepare to take on Real Sociedad.

Their remarkable total of 55 points from a possible 57 is three more than Pep Guardiola's Barca side managed in the 2010-11 season after 19 games and gives them an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid while Real Madrid languish a mighty 18 points adrift.

On a personal level, Messi has hit an unrivaled 28 goals in the first half of this campaign and he faces Sociedad knowing that a goal would see him equal the Barca record of scoring in 10 consecutive games set by Ronaldo, in the 1996-97 season and Mariano Martin, in the 1942-43 campaign.

"We are in a strong position in the league with the advantage we have but we cannot ease off. There is Atletico who are a strong side and then Real Madrid cannot be forgotten as they will fight to the end," said Messi.

"There is a long way to go but we are confident and our aim is to maintain the same level although we know it won't be easy for us."

David Villa is expected to miss the trip to San Sebastian through injury and so Messi is again set to play alongside Pedro Rodriguez and Andres Iniesta as Alexis Sanchez struggles for form.

The Chilean was booed by sections of the crowd as a weakened Barca drew 2-2 with Malaga in the King's Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid avoided any hiccups with a 2-0 win over Valencia but there remains plenty of tension in the camp as was shown with an argument between Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the match.

One of the main questions now is who will be in goal as Madrid face Valencia again in the league, with Spain international Iker Casillas having been replaced by Antonio Adan before Adan was suspended.

"There are a lot of opinions going around and I'm not getting involved in that. All I can say is that I will work hard and the coach will decide. I have no idea who will be picked," said Adan.

"I have a good relationship with Iker, we are teammates and friends. He is captain of the national team and Madrid so he is obviously a good professional."

Atletico face a tough clash with Europe-chasing Levante while Real Betis, surprisingly occupying the fourth Champions League slot after a bright start, now take on Athletic Bilbao.

Malaga will look to build on their performance against Barcelona with the visit of Celta Vigo while Rayo Vallecano, level on 31 points, play Granada.

At the other end of the table the bottom two, Osasuna and Deportivo la Coruna, go head-to-head and Mallorca above them face a rejuvenated Espanyol.

Elsewhere, Sevilla with new boss Unai Emery face Getafe and Valladolid take on Zaragoza.

Fixtures:

Friday

Espanyol v Mallorca

Saturday

Granada v Rayo Vallecano

Real Sociedad v Barcelona

Getafe v Sevilla

Malaga v Celta Vigo

Sunday

Osasuna v Deportivo la Coruna

Valladolid v Zaragoza

Atletico Madrid v Levante

Valencia v Real Madrid

Monday

Real Betis v Athletic Bilbao

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