16 October 2014 20:49
Lionel Messi aims to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his Barcelona debut by surpassing Telmo Zarra as La Liga’s all-time leading scorer.
The 27-year-old Argentinian requires two goals at home to Eibar on Saturday to equal the Athletic Bilbao legend’s tally of 251 and a hat-trick to become the outright record holder.
On Thursday, exactly 10 years after making his Barcelona bow against Espanyol, the usually reserved Messi made an emotional post on Facebook.
Alongside a montage showing him during each calendar year he has spent as a Barca player, Messi wrote: “I want to say thanks to all my family, friends, team-mates and FC Barcelona staff for their support in these 10 incredible years.
“I’ve always enjoyed being on the pitch, wearing these colours, living amazing moments and I’m constantly trying to improve and win more titles with my team. A hug for everyone!”
Barcelona have seized 19 points from a possible 21 in La Liga this season, scoring 19 goals and conceding zero in the process.
Luis Enrique’s team are two points clear of second-placed Valencia, with fierce rivals Real Madrid a further two points back in fourth.
Neymar has arguably displayed even better form than Messi, who has six goals from seven Liga outings this season.
The 22-year-old Brazil captain scored each of his nation’s goals in a 4-0 thrashing of Japan on Tuesday, and boasts nine goals from his last five appearances for club and country.
With clashes against Ajax, in the UEFA Champions League, and Real Madrid following the Eibar game, Luis Enrique may be tempted to rest some of his biggest stars, though he will be aware Eibar are no pushovers.
The Basque minnows have made an impressive start to their maiden top-tier campaign, with the performances of goalkeeper Xabi Irureta and centre-back Raul Albentosa helping them sit ninth.
Barcelona’s Jordi Alba believes Eibar will provide a tough obstacle, highlighting their narrow 2-1 loss away to defending champions Atletico Madrid.
“They are having a great season since being promoted to the first division,” the 25-year-old left-back told a news conference. “I like the way they play football. They have had some very good games away from home.”
Eibar will be making a first trip to Camp Nou, but Xabi, who is expected to have his hands full, insists they will not be intimidated.
“There’s a strong possibility we’ll lose,” he said. “But we’ll fight for the small odds we have of getting a win or a draw. Our intention is to go all out for the victory.
“We will not be scared. We’re very respectful [of Barcelona] but we’re determined and excited to do our jobs.”