MADRID (Reuters) – Champions Barcelona made it seven wins out of seven in La Liga, setting a club record start to a campaign, with a 2-0 victory at promoted Almeria on Saturday.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi struck the opener after 21 minutes with a wonderful solo effort but was forced to leave the pitch soon after with a hamstring problem in his right thigh.
Brazil full back Adriano added a second goal in the 56th minute to help move Barca on to 21 points, three ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid who visit third-placed Real Madrid in the capital city derby later on Saturday.
Earlier, Valencia continued to recover from their poor start to the season with a 1-0 home win over basement side Rayo Vallecano.
Brazilian striker Jonas pounced on an error in the Rayo defence to net the only goal after 37 minutes, earning Miroslav Djukic’s team a third consecutive victory that put them sixth with 12 points.
Barca coach Gerardo Martino rang the changes once again, leaving Neymar and Xavi on the bench perhaps with one eye on next week’s trip to Celtic in the Champions League.
Almeria gave little away at first, apart from a long-range Andres Iniesta volley that was turned over the bar, until Messi picked up the ball from a short corner on the right and ran across the edge of the area.
The Argentine played a one-two with Pedro and curled a left-foot shot in off the far post.
Messi then picked up his hamstring problem and was replaced by Xavi in the 29th minute.
The club said they would carry out tests on Sunday to determine the extent of the injury, though the forward did not seem unduly concerned as he remained in the dugout to watch the rest of the game.
After a shaky spell just before halftime, Barca doubled their lead when Cesc Fabregas squared for Adriano to slide in and divert the ball into the corner to continue the home team’s winless start to the season.