La Liga Preview: Barcelona v Malaga
By Football News
La Liga leaders Barcelona could have slipped down to third in the table by the time they kick-off against Malaga on Sunday.
The reigning champions have remained at the summit of the Spanish top flight since week one of the 2013-14 season, amassing 51 points from 20 fixtures so far.
However, Atletico Madrid have an identical record to Barcelona - 16 wins, three draws and one defeat - with the Catalans top on goal difference alone, while in-form Real Madrid sit just one point back after a run of nine wins from 10 league games.
Both Real and Atletico play before Barca in the latest round of fixtures - with the former hosting Granada on Saturday and Diego Simeone's men visiting Rayo Vallecano earlier on Sunday.
However, Barca coach Gerardo Martino is sure to be confident of his side ending the weekend as leaders regardless of goings-on elsewhere, thanks to their imperious home record.
The club have won 24 straight league matches at Camp Nou - a run that stretches back to October 2012, when Real claimed a 2-2 draw.
Indeed, the last time any side other than Real took something from a league visit to Barca was way back in October 2011, when Sevilla escaped with a share of the spoils courtesy of a goalless game.
Barca go into this fixture in something of a slump by their own high standards, having drawn their last two La Liga fixtures at Atletico and Levante respectively.
The last time the Camp Nou outfit went two league games without winning was in May 2011 - and they broke that run with a 3-1 win over Malaga, who sit 14th in the table this season.
History is also very much against the Andalucians going into this encounter, as they have lost 11 straight league fixtures against Barca.
The absence of Brazil star Neymar, who is out with an ankle problem, aids Bernd Schuster's side but they will still have to keep Lionel Messi quiet - a task they have found nigh-on impossible previously.
Messi, recently back from a two-month lay-off with a hamstring problem, has scored nine goals in his last five appearances against Malaga.