Injured Messi a doubt as Barcelona travel to Malaga
Lionel Messi is a major doubt for Barcelona's trip to Malaga on Sunday after he was again forced off with bruising on his hamstring during the Catalans' 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.sports Updated: Aug 23, 2013 08:50 IST
Lionel Messi is a major doubt for Barcelona's trip to Malaga on Sunday after he was again forced off with bruising on his hamstring during the Catalans' 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Messi has now played the 90 minutes in just one of Barcelona and Argentina's last 27 matches stretching back to when he initially picked up a hamstring strain against Paris Saint-Germain in April.
Should the 26-year-old not recover in time to play on Sunday against a much changed Malaga side to the one that made the Champions League quarter-finals last season, Neymar could be handed his first start after coming off the bench to salvage a draw for Gerardo Martino's men with his first goal for the club against Atletico in the Super Cup.
"I hope it will be the first goal of many," he told Spanish television station TVE.
"I score very few goals with my head so they are even more valuable. I am happy to have got my first goal.
"It is a shame that I haven't been able to play with Messi yet, he is the best in the world and everyone wants to play with him."
Whilst Neymar has so far been Barca's only new recruit during the transfer window, there has been a revolving door of comings and goings at La Rosaleda with new boss Bernd Schuster welcoming eight new signings to replace the likes of Isco, Jeremy Toulalan, Martin Demichelis and Julio Baptista who left over the past few months.
One of those to make his debut in last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Valencia was Argentine defender Marcos Angeleri and he is aware of how difficult it will be to stop Barca, even if they are without his compatriot Messi.
"Barcelona can surprise you with the magnitude of their results, but they are always an opponent that you have to prepare for in a special way given the quality of the players they have," he said.
"They have players that are difficult to control, but it is not impossible. With the whole team working well together we can have a good match."
Real Madrid have to wait until Monday for their second outing under Carlo Ancelotti when they travel to Granada.
Los Blancos were somewhat fortunate to escape with all three points thanks to Isco's late header in a 2-1 win over Real Betis last weekend and Ancelotti won't be able to call on the experience of Xabi Alonso for the next three months as the Spanish international broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot in training on Wednesday.
Granada are one of the few La Liga sides to have significantly strengthened during the transfer window and have already shown they have the capability to beat Madrid having done so on home soil last season thanks to an own goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad look to continue their fantastic start to the campaign after 2-0 wins over Getafe and Lyon in the past week when they travel to face Elche, who make their first home appearance in La Liga for 25 years.
Sociedad's Anoeta stadium will still be in use however as Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao have been forced to play their first home game of the campaign there as construction on their new stadium will not be completed until September.
Getafe v Almeria, Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna
Elche v Real Sociedad, Espanyol v Valencia, Villarreal v Valladolid
Atletico Madrid v Rayo Vallecano, Levante v Sevilla, Malaga v Barcelona, Real Betis v Celta Vigo
Granada v Real Madrid