After records, Barcelona's Messi can focus on silverware

Reuters , Thursday 27 Nov 2014

Barcelona
Barcelona's Lionel Messi fights for the ball with APOEL's Barbosa during a Champions League Group F soccer match between APOEL and FC Barcelona at GSP stadium, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 (Photo: AP)

With the distraction of two individual scoring records safely out of the way, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi can turn his full focus on helping the club win the major silverware that eluded them last season.

New coach Luis Enrique was as effusive as anyone in his praise of the Barca and Argentina captain, who on Tuesday added the all-time Champions League scoring record to the La Liga-best tally he set at the weekend.

However, both Messi and Luis Enrique know all that will be forgotten unless Barca add another Champions League or La Liga title to the trophy cabinet, or at the very least a King's Cup and preferably all three, in 2014-15.

As the Catalan side prepare for Sunday's La Liga game at fourth-placed Valencia, there are signs they are beginning to move up the gears after a patchy couple of months.

Tuesday's 4-0 win at APOEL Nicosia followed hard on the heels of Saturday's 5-1 drubbing of Sevilla, while new signing Luis Suarez finally opened his Barca account in Cyprus in his sixth appearance.

Although it took him longer than expected to score, the Uruguay forward appears to have slotted seamlessly into the Barca attack alongside Messi and Neymar and he also has four assists to his name.

"This is the version of Barca I would like to see all season long," Luis Enrique said at his post-match news conference on Tuesday.

"If we play like that all the time it is going to be very difficult for anyone to beat us," added the former Spain midfielder, who played for both Barca and Real Madrid.

Second-placed Barca are two points behind leaders Real after 12 matches and could see the gap stretch to five if the European champions win at Malaga on Saturday.

A win for Real in Andalusia will set a club record for consecutive victories of 16 and they were last beaten in mid-September, a 2-1 home reverse to champions Atletico Madrid.

Atletico, who joined Barca and Real in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, are third, two points behind Barca, ahead of their match at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

David Moyes, whose debut as coach of Real Sociedad at Depor on Saturday ended in a 0-0 draw, will seek a first win at home to Elche on Friday.

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