Lionel Messi believes the eight years Cesc Fabregas spent at Arsenal have been just as important in his immediate adaptation at Barcelona as his formative years with the Catalan club.
Messi is the only player to have scored more league goals for Barcelona this season than Fabregas, who has struck four times in six La Liga starts, and the two have reformed a partnership that began when they played two seasons together as teenagers. Messi said: "I have a very good understanding with Cesc not only because we played together as kids but because Arsenal played the same way as us when he was there."
The Argentine forward is on a hat-trick of hat-tricks having scored three goals in each of his past two games. Tomorrow night Barcelona face a revitalised Athletic Bilbao side managed by one of Pep Guardiola's inspirations, Marcelo Bielsa. He visited the former Chile and Argentina coach before deciding to take over the first team at the Nou Camp.
Leaders Real Madrid, who face Osasuna, play their first ever home game to kick off at 12 noon tomorrow. The attempt to challenge the Premier League for the Asian television market is behind the move from the main rights holders in Spain MediaPro who dictate kick-off times.
In Italy Milan face Catania tomorrow with Antonio Cassano having successfully come through a 35-minute heart operation. The Italian is not expected to play again this season. His strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic meanwhile has attacked Guardiola in his autobiography I am Zlatan. Ibrahimovic said: "I told Guardiola you have no balls, you shit yourself when it comes to [Jose] Mourinho." Guardiola left the Swede out of Barcelona's run-in during his only season at the Nou Camp.