Madrid: Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has set his sights on beating Real Madrid next weekend after leading Barcelona to a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna on Sunday. Messi overtook Paulino Alcantara to become Barca's all-time leading scorer in all forms of football with his second goal of the afternoon before completing his hat-trick to take his tally for the club to 371.
Victory moved Barca back to within four points of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with both sides set to meet at the Santiago Bernabeu next Sunday. And Messi is hoping that a win in the Spanish capital will put his side right back in the La Liga title race.
"I hope we see a good version of Barcelona and we can get a positive result, which we need to still be in there fighting for La Liga just a point behind," he told Barca TV.
"We have a unique opportunity to cut the gap on Madrid. It will be a very difficult game because we are playing away from home and Real Madrid is a great team playing with a lot of confidence. It will be difficult, but it all depends on us."
The Argentine's first hat-trick of 2014 means he has now scored 12 times in his last nine games and he believes he is slowly getting back to his best after missing the last two months of 2013 due to a hamstring injury. "I feel good, as I have said before, little by little I am getting better after the injury. There were very difficult moments because I had a run of injuries, but I am feeling good and hopefully I can maintain this level until the end of the season."
Barca boss Gerardo Martino hailed his compatriot's display as his side returned to winning ways in La Liga after a shock 1-0 defeat to Valladolid last weekend. "There is nothing that needs to be said about Messi. He continues to play games like this and break records."
However, despite such a resounding scoreline, Martino insisted Barca's display hadn't affected his thinking over what starting line-up to go with against Real Madrid. "Today doesn't generate any doubts in my mind ahead of the Bernabeu. The performance doesn't affect how I think we should play there.
"I always have in mind what I think about the team independent of the result and I have almost decided upon the team for next week.
"To have a good performance ahead of the game at the Bernabeu is positive, but we can't get carried away. It is not easy to score seven goals, but we can't think we have gone from a disaster to spectacular in the space of a week.
"This is a squad full of important figures and some have to be left out. It is not easy to manage because they are all so good. However, I can't get carried away by this game and it will not affect my thinking too much."