Barcelona are the visitors to Athletic Bilbao this weekend, with the Catalan club desperate to do all they can and keep pressure up on league leaders Real Madrid with three much needed points.
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Pep Guardiola’s side sit just one point behind Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side, and talisman Lionel Messi believes it will be difficult to top their fierce rivals this season.
“Madrid have strengthened their squad well with the aim of being better this season and they have achieved that,” the Argentine World Player of the Year was quoted as saying in Marca sports daily on Friday.
“They have grown since August and they are stronger than last year,” he told the Madrid-based newspaper. “But we are too with the additions we have made.” He added.
While Madrid are on a hot streak at the moment, winning nine consecutive games in all competitions, Barcelona aren’t too far behind having yet to taste defeat in this campaign so far.
A series of 2-2 draws at the start of the season left them on the back foot in the title race, but with Messi and Co up to speed they should be able to comfortably pick up maximum points this weekend.
Bilbao fins themselves comfortably in mid table at the moment, but are unlikely to feel confident of taking even a point from this weekend’s encounter with Barcelona given their horrendous record against the La Liga giants.
The 2005/06 season was the last time they tasted victory against Barcelona, and they will be wary of Messi who has surprisingly failed to score away from home so far, looking to break his duck on the road.
The Basque side have struggled defensively in the league this season and have only managed a single clean sheet so far, a record thay will be hard to break against a Barcelona side that have only faile dot find the back of the net in one of their league games so far.