Timely return of Messi boosts goal-shy Barça

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The Independent Football

Even stranger than Valencia president Manuel Llorente's claim that now the club are only €430m (£360m) in debt they don't need to sell any players, are two statistics about Spanish Champions Barcelona.

One is that they have only won one of their last 10 away games in the Champions League and the other that they have only scored once at home in La Liga so far this season.

Rubin Kazan's midweek 6-3-1 formation strangled the life out of Pep Guardiola's side while Barça have been frustrated in their first two Nou Camp league fixtures. Tomorrow against Mallorca they will be without the suspended David Villa and the injured Xavi Hernandez but will welcome back Leo Messi.

"To sign a player you need to know something about football, but with Messi it wasn't necessary. Even if you knew nothing about the game you could see that he was very, very good," said Charly Rexach this week as the man the then-sporting director signed for Barcelona a decade ago was awarded the Golden Boot for his 34 goals last season.

Messi's return from an ankle injury will boost Guardiola's search for goals and it was the Barcelona coach who moved his No 10 in from the right-hand side of Barcelona's three-man attack towards the end of his first season in charge helping him to rack-up his record-breaking haul.

"He told me that I had to play closer to the goal because he believed that I was capable of scoring more goals," said Messi who will play as Guardiola's former Barcelona team-mate Michael Laudrup brings his Mallorca team to the Nou Camp.

Laudrup has warned Barça that Real Madrid's poor form will not necessarily mean they will not win the league pointing to the success of Fabio Capello in 2007. He said: "Barça are better to watch but that was also the case three years ago and Madrid still won the league."

We probably should not hold our breath for a Deportivo goal tomorrow when they christen the newly laid turf at the Bernabeu – Miguel Angel Lotina's team have scored just two goals all season and Madrid have only conceded once. It's the worst attack against the best defence but Real fans will demand more than just a win. Jose Mourinho blamed a poor performance in the last home game on what he described as "a potato field of a pitch" but it was ripped up after that win over Espanyol and will be ready for tomorrow's game.

Jose's enthusiasm is so infectious even the doctor has caught it

Mourinho's ruthless win-at-all-costs mentality in the dugout is rubbing off on the most unlikely suspects. Club doctor Juan Carlos Hernandez has been given a two-match dugout ban after protesting a refereeing decision in Real Madrid's 0-0 draw with Levante last week. Spanish football authorities deemed the doctor's encroachment into the opposition's technical area to be so serious that while last week's red-carded players Jose Antonio Reyes and Villa were given one game bans, Hernandez must sit out two matches.

One To Watch

Most people believed Samuel Eto'o's career could only go downhill after he left Barcelona. A Champions League, Italian Cup and Serie A title later it is still difficult to think of too many strikers more guaranteed to deliver consistently over the course of a season. He has scored 11 of Internazionale's goals this campaign and leads their attack against Juventus tomorrow at San Siro. Another former Barcelona striker proving there is life after the Camp Nou is Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has netted five of Milan's last six goals and will be joined by a recalled Ronaldinho away at Parma today.