BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi will have a good shot at equaling the Spanish league’s all-time scoring record when Barcelona hosts promoted club Eibar on Saturday.
Since his league debut 10 years ago, Messi has scored 249 goals and is two away from matching Telmo Zarra’s 1955 milestone.
If Messi comes up short, his next chance will come the following weekend when Barcelona visits Real Madrid in the first “clasico” of the season.
“If we don’t beat Eibar we will have a harder time at the Bernabeu,” Barcelona defender Jordi Alba said. “It would be better to make sure we arrive with a four-point advantage.”
Here are the things to know about the eighth round of matches:
While Messi chases Zarra, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo will look to keep up his own superb start to the season.
After going scoreless in Portugal’s 2-1 loss to France in a friendly, Ronaldo gave Portugal its first win in qualifying for the 2016 European Championship by netting a last-gasp header deep in injury time to snatch a 1-0 win over Denmark on Tuesday.
That came after Ronaldo scored for an eighth consecutive appearance with Madrid.
Ronaldo leads the Spanish league with 13 goals, more than the entire team totals of 16 of the league’s 20 sides.
The Ballon d’Or holder can add to that when fourth-place Madrid visits Levante on Saturday before heading to Liverpool in the Champions League next Wednesday.
“I’m not surprised by Cristiano’s talent, I already knew that as his adversary,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “What surprises me is the desire he always brings to help the team, his level of professionalism. He is unique in that.”
Eibar looks like an easy three points for Barcelona. It is playing in the top flight for the first time and has one of its lowest budgets at 18 million euros ($23 million), compared to Barcelona’s 457 million euros ($584 million).
But Eibar has only lost two of seven games in its first-division debut. It has also two of the best goals so far: Javi Lara’s angled free kick to beat Real Sociedad in its opener and Saul Berjon’s blistering volley to help earn a 3-3 draw against Levante last round.
“We are going to try and take points any way we can,” Lara said. “We will try to make it a war with the weapons we have. So far, we have been able to hold our own in all our matches, playing with intensity, not relinquishing possession, and knowing that there will be moments when we will have to dig down and hang in there.”
Eibar will face a Barcelona defense that has not allowed a goal this campaign, helping goalkeeper Claudio Bravo set a new record for not conceding to start a season.
Besides Messi, Eibar will also have to defend an in-form Neymar, who leads Barcelona with seven goals in league play.
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has responded to criticism for his latest mistake in Spain’s unexpected loss at Slovakia last week by reminding his fans even he can’t play forever.
“I am not immortal and everyone has to know when to step down from the national team,” the 33-year-old Casillas said. “Right now I feel fine and strong enough to help my country.”
Casillas is also under pressure at Madrid, which signed Keylor Navas after his performance with Costa Rica at this summer’s World Cup.
Ancelotti has started Casillas over Navas in all but one game.
Valencia is in second place two points behind Barcelona and the only undefeated team in the league beside the pacesetters.
Valencia visits last-place Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.
Deportivo has one win in its return to the first division and has lost its last four games by a combined score of 15-4.
Sevilla visits Elche on Sunday looking to retain its hold of third place three points behind Barcelona.
Carlos Bacca leads Sevilla with five goals, while Barcelona loanees Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu are fitting into Unai Emery’s attack.