Betis next victims on the block for Messi's Barca
By Iain Rogers
MADRID (Reuters) - Having sealed their place in the Champions League last 16 with two games to spare and Lionel Messi returning to something near his best, Barcelona are eagerly awaiting Sunday's La Liga clash with Real Betis (2000 GMT).
Messi ended a mini goal drought with a double in Wednesday's 3-1 Group H win at home to AC Milan and the Argentine World Player of the Year will be looking to put a run of four domestic outings for the unbeaten leaders without scoring behind him when struggling Betis visit the Nou Camp.
The 26-year-old, whose season has been disrupted by a couple of minor muscle injuries, delighted his adoring fans when he smashed in a penalty after 30 minutes and sent them into ecstasy when he dashed through the middle and scored with a trademark dinked effort seven minutes from time.
Talk of a Messi crisis dominated the buildup to the game, but his record this term is one most players could only dream of - six goals in three Champions League appearances and eight in 10 La Liga outings.
"I'm calm about the recuperation," Messi said on the UEFA website (www.uefa.com) on Thursday.
"I'm getting my rhythm back bit by bit and I think it really helps to have 90 minutes, then another 90 minutes, back to back so that I can gradually re-establish the tempo and the form I had before," he added.
"This time there have been two injuries really close together and that kind of impact you do notice. But I'm definitely getting past it and I'm happy with my form."
Seville-based Betis, who play at Portuguese side Guimaraes in the Europa League later on Thursday, are mired down in 18th place in the table with just over a quarter of the season played and pressure has been mounting on coach Pepe Mel. Continued...