Euro Zone: Barca aim to mark decade of Messi magic in style

Barcelona celebrate the tenth anniversary of their greatest ever piece of business this weekend, and they do so ahead of a game against Atletico Madrid – their toughest rivals in recent years and the current league leaders of
La Liga.

It was on 17 September, 2000, that a gawky pale-faced 13-year-old from Argentina called Lionel Messi touched down at Barcelona's El Prat airport for a trial. He scored five goals and hit the crossbar twice in his first display, and such was the anxiety of the club's then sporting director, Charlie Rexach, not to let the player escape, that a pre-contract was scrawled on a serviette in the local tennis club promising to sign him.

Barça's No 10 has already scored 133 league goals for the club, including seven against tomorrow's opponents, but the team have lost in their last two visits to the Vicente Calderon stadium and Atletico have maximum points from their first two games, scoring six goals in the process.

Messi has six goals in five games in all competitions this season but Atletico were the only team to defeat Barça in the league last year and welcome back Sergio Aguero, who did not feature in the midweek Europa League defeat to Aris Thessaloniki.



Ronaldo goes in search of first goal

Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Real Madrid's attack against Real Sociedad tonight in search of his first goal this season. The Portuguese has had 28 shots so far but is yet to score.

He could prosper away from his own supporters after friction between himself and the fans marred Wednesday's Champions League win over Ajax. A small minority whistled a missed chance and after the final whistle Ronaldo refused to take part in the customary applause for the home support. He headed down the tunnel and left the stadium within 15 minutes.

Real Madrid have scored just three times so far this campaign but have had 76 shots on goal. "One of these days a team is going to pay for all those missed opportunities," said manager Jose Mourinho, who yesterday refused to rule out managing the Portugal national side on an interim basis after Carlos Queiroz was sacked last week.



Ibrahimovic rages against Sacchi

Milan fans will hope Zlatan Ibrahimovic's rage is taken out on Catania today as the striker looks to build on his goals in midweek and his media criticism of former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi. In telling the stunned Sacchi: "Anything you have to say you should say to my face," the Swede was replying to the pundit's remark that he "is strong against the small teams and weak against the big ones".

McClaren lifted by Dzeko and Grafite

Steve McClaren should get his first points as Wolfsburg coach today at the fourth time of asking when Hannover 96 visit the Volkswagen Arena.

The former England manager is able to pair Bosnian Edin Dzeko and Brazilian Grafite in attack for the first time against an injury- and suspension-hit Hannover side who struggled in their last campaign but are unbeaten so far this season.



Benitez gets deep and meaningful

Both Mourinho and Rafa Benitez faced questions about their use of their strikers this week. Benitez responded to questions about Samuel Eto'o playing too deep by saying: "If he is any further forward he will be in goal for the opposition."

And this was Mourinho's pep-talk for the benched Karim Benzema: "He has a very good view from the dug-out. He can see the whole game and he can see what he needs to do to get back into the team."

One to watch

Quincy Owusu-Abeyie has already thrown away two good chances having been kicked out of Ajax as a youngster and failing to make the grade at Arsenal, but the Dutch-born Ghanaian who was on loan at Portsmouth last season is looking like a world-beater again for his new club Malaga. The Spanish club – bought by a Qatari sheikh in May – face Seville tomorrow.

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