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Messi keeps title talk off agenda

Updated: 2013-01-12 11:52
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid ( China Daily)

Messi keeps title talk off agenda

Lionel Messi of Argentina, FIFA World Player of the Year 2012 holds his FIFA Ballon d'Or trophy during the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2012 soccer awards ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich, Jan 7, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

Barcelona may be nine points ahead of its nearest rival, Atletico Madrid, but Lionel Messi, who this week won his fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or, is keeping his feet on the ground regarding the title race.

The Argentine is taking nothing for granted as Barca prepares to face one of the toughest trips in La Liga when it visits fourth-placed Malaga on Sunday.

"The league is still not resolved, Madrid have made up a similar lead to this in the past, we know that we can't take anything as won and we must continue without errors or relaxing," he said.

"I would have liked to have won more titles last year, my goal is always to keep getting better and not be content with what I have. I always say I have to improve everything," he said, ominously for La Liga defenses after finishing 2012 with a record 91 goals.

Barca also has David Villa, who is yet to play a full 90 minutes in the league this season, back in goalscoring form after he hit a double in the 5-0 Spanish Cup win against Cordoba on Thursday.

Malaga was also successful in the cup in midweek, defeating Eibar 4-1 to set up a two-leg quarterfinal clash with Sunday's opponent that will see the two sides meet three times in a little more than 10 days.

Former Barca forward Javier Saviola, now with Malaga, recognises they will be big games for him.

"They will be special for me personally and on a football level. They are a powerful and very technical team and any draw against a big club is good, but we'll be going out to win," said the Argentine.

Second-placed Atletico also reached the quarterfinals in midweek and welcomed back leading scorer Radamel Falcao who it missed through injury in the 1-1 league draw at Mallorca last Sunday.

The Colombian should be available for the home clash with Zaragoza on Sunday where the side from the capital will look to make it 10 league wins from 10 in its own stadium.

Real Madrid goes to bottom club Osasuna having hit eight goals in two wins since its return from the winter break.

Five of those have come from Cristiano Ronaldo who will not be available for the game due to a suspension for an accumulation of cards.

Ronaldo was quick to call for unity from all at the club on Wednesday after his hat-trick eased his team into the quarterfinals of the Cup with a 4-0 win over Celta Vigo.

And now the tension caused by Jose Mourinho's decision to leave captain Iker Casillas out of the past two league games has ended with the goalkeeper expected to continue in place of the suspended Antonio Adan at Osasuna.

Casillas himself spoke on Thursday, taking advantage of a promotional event to smooth out any perceived problems he may have with Mourinho.

"It has not bothered me at all that Mourinho said that I was a bit too comfortable. I have to train harder and get back my confidence", he said.

Casillas also had words about his side's poor league form that sees the champion 16 points behind Barcelona in third place.

"Our form compared to last year has not been too good. Last season was very good for us and we were looking to continue in the same way, perhaps it's a bit too late to chase back the points and win this league but we are obliged to try to do it."

Another player who will miss the trip to Pamplona is Sergio Ramos who received a five-game ban for words directed at the referee in the aftermath of a sending-off against Celta Vigo.

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