Messi the man to stop as Barca travel to Granada this Saturday

2013-02-15 10:54:16 GMT2013-02-15 18:54:16(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Paul Giblin

MADRID, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Surely Leo Messi won't be able to go on forever: that is the feeling among football fans in Spain after the FC Barcelona striker took his incredible scoring run to 13 consecutive matches in the BBVA Primera Liga in his side's 6-1 thrashing of Getafe last Sunday.

Messi has been unstoppable this season, proof of which is clear to see in his 35 goals in just 23 league appearances, which means he is on target to repeat last season' feat of scoring 50 goals in the campaign.

Barcelona and Messi will take their challenge to Granada's Los Carmines Stadium this Saturday night, knowing that the league title is theirs for the taking. The Catalans hold a 12 point lead over an Atletico Madrid side that looks to be running out of gas and a 16 point advantage of Real Madrid, who are focusing their energy in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.

The Barcelona players were able to enjoy a well-earned week without midweek football in the run up to the Granada match, but with their Champions League last 16 tie away to AC Milan next Wednesday, Jordi Roura, who is still standing in while Tito Vilanova undergoes cancer treatment in the USA, will make some changes.

Midfielder Xavi Hernandez will miss out as he puts the final touches to recovery from a hamstring strain and Thiago Alcantara, who performed exceptionally last weekend, will continue in the side.

Despite now playing, Xavi was one of the protagonists of the week as he stood up to defend Messi from accusations from Real Madrid, to which no evidence has ever been produced, that the striker insulted Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa and assistant coach, Aitor Karanka after the recent first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final.

"It's ridiculous, we should be talking about football. Whoever is on the losing side is always angry and I don' t know whether it happened or not," said Xavi.

"I didn't see it and it doesn't interest me, but why do they (Madrid) want to show him as the villain of the piece and a bad person? What do they want to try and do with all of this?" he speculated.

Players such as Javier Mascherano could and Adriano Correia could also start for Barca, although David Villa looks likely to miss out after suffering a severe colic during the week, which saw him need hospital treatment.

Barca's away form has slipped of late with a defeat and a draw in their last two matches away from the Camp Nou and Granada will be a tough match for Roura and his men.

The Andalusian side was looking to be heading for relegation until the arrival of Lucas Alcaraz as coach a fortnight ago and the new coach has inspired them to two wins from two games to lift them clear of the relegation dogfight.

Wins at home to Real Madrid and Deportivo la Coruna have brought a change of atmosphere and there is a feeling that can hustle their way to at least a point against Barca. Of course to do that, first of all they need to stop Messi.

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