Messi tries for record as he goes for 50 goals
Lionel Messi is making a run at adding to his already impressive achievements for Barcelona, needing just two goals for a Spanish record 50 in a season.
The 23-year-old Argentina international scored his 48th goal in his 46th game in Tuesday's 1-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk, setting a record for Barcelona and helping it secure a place in the Champions League semifinals.
Starting with Saturday's game at Real Madrid, Messi will have at least 10 matches - 11 if Barcelona reaches the Champions League final - to become the first Spanish league player to reach the half-century mark. The two-time defending World Player of the Year and former Brazil striker Ronaldo had held the previous Barcelona record of 47.
Messi is tied with Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra as the single-season scoring leader with 48 goals, but former Madrid great Ferenc Puskas scored 47 in 1959-60 and added two more in the Intercontinental Cup, which resulted from Madrid's fifth straight European Cup victory.
Messi equaled Zarra's tally from the 1950-51 season Tuesday at the same ground where the Argentine made his Champions League debut as a 17-year-old.
Messi, whose goal stretched Barcelona's overall winning streak to five games, has scored 133 of his 175 goals in the two-plus seasons under coach Pep Guardiola.
''Messi gives us a lot more than just goals,'' Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes said. ''He supports the team in defense and in attack. His work helps everyone.''
Barcelona holds an eight-point advantage over second-place Madrid and Messi leads the league with 29 goals, one better then Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentine tops the Champions League with nine goals, scored three times to help Barcelona to the Spanish Supercup in August, and has seven goals in the Copa del Rey.
He has four hat tricks and 11 two-goal games this season, and his goal tally is 51 when counting the three he scored for Argentina in internationals played over the course of the season.
''We're here to lend him a hand so that all of his talent can be best expressed,'' Guardiola said after Messi won the Golden Ball for best player in January. ''Messi gives us everything.''
Barcelona plays Madrid in the Copa del Rey final four days after Saturday's match, and is likely to play its biggest rival twice in the Champions League semifinals.
But while Messi has scored seven goals from nine games against Madrid, he remains goal-less in eight matches against coach Jose Mourinho. Under Mourinho, eventual champion Inter Milan was able to shut down the speedy forward in last season's Champions League semifinals.
Barcelona also faces Osasuna, Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga over its final seven league games.