Messi questionable as Barcelona heads to Malaga
Malaga, Spain (Sports Network) - It looks as though Barcelona will be without its talisman for a vital encounter with Malaga at La Rosaleda on Sunday.
Lionel Messi exited Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish SuperCup after sustaining another muscle injury, something that has plagued the Argentine wizard since Champions League action in April.
The 26-year-old has been diagnosed with a bruised hamstring, and if he can't recover in time for Sunday's tilt, new manager Gerardo Martino could be tempted to hand a first start to Neymar.
The Brazilian attacker, who joined the Catalans from Santos in the summer, has shown well in Barcelona's first two competitive matches of the season. He came on as a substitute in the club's 7-0 La Liga thrashing of Levante last weekend before notching the equalizer against Atletico on Wednesday.
"I hope it will be the first goal of many," Neymar told Spanish television station TVE. "I score very few goals with my head so they are even more valuable. I am happy to have got my first goal.
"It is a shame that I haven't been able to play with Messi yet, he is the best in the world and everyone wants to play with him."
Sunday's meeting between Malaga and Barcelona would have been a more tasty affair had Los Boquerones not sold Isco, Jeremy Toulalan, Martin Demichelis and Julio Baptista in the transfer window, but while Messi's absence conceivably levels the playing field, defender Marcos Angeleri, who joined Malaga from Estudiantes over the summer, believes that the Catalans still have plenty of quality to hurt the home side.
"Barcelona can surprise you with the magnitude of their results, but they are always an opponent that you have to prepare for in a special way given the quality of the players they have," he said. "They have players that are difficult to control, but it is not impossible. With the whole team working well together we can have a good match."
Martino's side resides at the top of the Spanish top flight thanks to such an emphatic win in its opening match, leaving the rest of La Liga to play catch- up.
Real Madrid, seen as Barcelona's biggest threat to the title, barely managed to claim three points in its opening fixture of the season as it needed an 86th-minute strike from Isco to earn a 2-1 home victory over Real Betis. Los Merengues will attempt to build upon that win when they head to Los Carmenes on Monday to take on Granada.
Real Betis, meanwhile, will head home for its first league match at the Benito Villamarin this season as it hosts Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Atletico Madrid will welcome Rayo Vallecano to the Vicente Calderon while Levante hosts Sevilla at the Ciutat de Valencia.
Saturday's action will see Real Sociedad head to the Martinez Valero to take on Elche, Valencia traveling to the Cornella-El Prat to face Espanyol and Villarreal welcoming Valladolid to El Madrigal.
On Friday, Diego Gimenez converted a penalty kick five minutes from time to save a point for Getafe in a 2-2 draw with Almeria, while Athletic Bilbao earned a 2-0 win over Osasuna.
08/23 18:11:19 ET