Guardiola tempted to rest Messi as Real raise goal standard

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The Independent Football

However, the Valladolid players believe they could spring a surprise which would benefit Barcelona's main title rivals, Real Madrid, currently trailing by six points with 10 games remaining. "Why can't we win? We're a strong team at home and although we realise it will be tough, we can't allow ourselves to go out defeated beforehand," the Valladolid central defender Inaki Bea said.

The Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, may help their task if he rests striker Lionel Messi following his involvement in both of Argentina's World Cup qualifiers – the 4-0 win over Venezuela and the 6-1 defeat to Bolivia. Messi has scored 30 goals for Barcelona in all competitions this season. The league leaders head to the Estadio Jose Zorrilla tonight hoping for a fourth straight league victory, providing further proof that they have fully overcome the brief slump which allowed Real Madrid to halve their advantage from 12 points.

Midfielders Andres Iniesta and Yaya Touré, who picked up thigh strains in the 6-0 win over Malaga almost two weeks ago, and captain Carles Puyol, sidelined for almost a month with an ankle sprain, are all doubtful for tonight's match.

Seeking to extend their impressive run to 13 wins in 15 La Liga games since Juande Ramos became coach in December, Real Madrid visit mid-table Malaga today. The defending champions are still hopeful of catching Barcelona and avoiding ending the season empty-handed, especially as the leaders still have to visit the Bernabeu on 3 May .

Real have scored 21 goals in the past six games, with recent signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bagging eight of them. The Malaga coach, Antonio Tapia, warned his players not to lose possession as easily as they did against Barcelona last month. "Madrid can do you a lot of harm because they're a team which is really effective and can win matches with only a few chances," Tapia said.