Barcelona aim to go on top against Malaga
Madrid, Feb 20 (IANS) Spanish club FC Barcelona entertain Malaga Saturday knowing that a win would see them overtake leaders Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga.
The leadership, though, could be temporary given that Madrid play struggling Elche Sunday, but it would none the less be a major boost for coach Luis Enrique's side, reports Xinhua.
Barcelona go into the game unbeaten since the first weekend of January when they were defeated 0-1 by Real Sociedad while Malaga appear to have run out of steam following an excellent first half to the season.
Coach Javi Gracia's side have won just one of their last seven league games and travel to Barcelona following a 1-4 defeat to Levante and a 0-2 loss at home to Espanyol, which have slimmed their hopes of playing European football next season.
Barcelona would once again be looking to striker Lionel Messi to produce his magic at the Camp Nou stadium: the Argentine has scored in his team's last 11 home games and last weekend produced a hat-trick to finish off Levante.
Messi has said the defeat to Real Sociedad had brought about a change in attitude among the players, while his own poor form last season was a factor in motivating him to reach the pinnacle of his heights this time around.
Another factor in the game could be Barcelona's tough Champions League away trip against English club Manchester City next week. Enrique could be tempted to rest some of his key players.
That might see midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez, who now accepts his role as a bit-part player, stepping into central midfield with defenders Marc Bartra and Adriano also getting their chance.
Messi is not the only striker who has been in the form of late. Though strikers Neymar and Luis Suarez are gelling as a unit, Neymar could also be rested with forward Pedro Rodriguez getting another chance to shine.