Messi’s moment, Unai’s adios and Atlético’s Intertoto adventure

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The moment Lionel Messi and his supporters had long been waiting for finally arrived on Tuesday evening. But for those paid good money and under threat of the sack unless gushing things are written about him, it was probably a match they had been dreading for some time. How do you raise the already justifiably stratospheric level of praise into something beyond the outer reaches of our galaxy?

A quick rejig of the Barça history books meant that little Leo only had to score one goal on Tuesday night to become the joint-highest goal scorer in the club’s history. along with Julio César. Two strikes meant the honour would be his alone. Naturally the Barcelona forward banged in another hat-trick, just to make sure, in a mad-as-a-loony-lizard 5-3 win over Granada.

Messi’s 234 goals at the age of just 24 makes the Argentinean “the greatest scorer in history,” yelled Sport’s front cover.

“It’s Messi who puts the gold into the club’s colours with goals, records, hard work, assists and playing football like he was in the school play ground. He’s the number one,” writes a tearful Santi Nolla.

But it's a busy Wednesday in a snowy Madrid, and LLL doesn’t have time for such sentimentality, so it’s a swift handshake and pat on the head for Messi, before we move on to more pressing matters. Among them is Tuesday's goalless draw between Osasuna and Getafe, with the home side firmly in the “plopping themselves at the thought of actually getting fourth place” club, dropping two easy points.

Real Madrid will be looking to restore their eight-point lead at the top of the table by beating Villarreal. That in itself may not be much of a challenge, but to do so the side will have stay awake against a team now lead by the notoriously dull, seven-man-defence-loving Miguel-Angel Lotina. To prepare themselves for this taxing task, the club exposed themselves to a press conference by assitant manager Aitor Karanka, enough to send one’s eyeballs permanently to the back of one’s skull.

Atlético Madrid will take on Athletic Bilbao in what is set to be a chilly Vicente Calderón, with both team's looking to succeed where Osasuna failed in not allowing Málaga or Levante a free run at the final Champions League spot. “We have to be strong and know what we are playing for,” said Diego Simeone, who apparently hasn’t been told the Intertoto Cup has been scrapped.

An unenthused Unai Emery may be that little bit less irritating to his players on the touchline in the clash against Zaragoza. Valencia are facing a team bottom of the table, without a league win in Mestalla for nearly 20 years and, what’s more, the Valencia boss seems to realise that his time is up at the club, with the fans getting their way on forcing Emery out for the simple reason that they appear to be bored with him. “Possibly, I’m not being enigmatic, it’s reality and it could well be,” was the manager’s response when asked if this was his final season with the team.

Sporting have a bit of a humdinger at home to Mallorca, with the side three points from Villarreal and playing a team who can be a tad flakey on their travels. Levante will be looking for that final win to secure safety and an early summer holiday, when they make the trip to Real Sociedad.

Atlético Madrid v Athletic Bilbao - Draw
Sporting v Mallorca - Home win
Real Sociedad v Levante - Home win
Valencia v Zaragoza - Home win
Villarreal v Real Madrid - Away win