Messi targets Barcelona goal record
© AFP

Lionel Messi is targeting Barcelona's all-time scoring record, which has stood for more than 50 years, with the European champions also braced to snatch top spot in La Liga on Sunday.

Defending champions Barcelona have hit 22 goals in five league games so far from three wins and two draws. And Messi has been in super-charged form with the little Argentine scoring eight league goals.

His hat-trick in last week's 5-0 demolition of Atletico Madrid and two in the 5-0 UEFA Champions League rout of BATE Borisov took his career Barcelona total to 194, the same as Hungarian legend Laszlo Kubala.  What is remarkable is that he has achieved the feat aged just 24.

Now, as his team prepares to face Sporting Gijon on Sunday, he aims to further close the gap on the all-time record of 235 notched up by Cesar Rodriguez between 1939 and 1955.

"I am very happy to draw level with somebody so important in the club. I try and do my best in every game and pick up trophies, and if the records come as well then great but it is not something I worry about," said Messi.

"I knew that I could equal Kubala but I didn't go out with the aim of scoring twice in any way, quite the opposite. Now our job is to finish the week well with a good performance against Sporting before the break for internationals. I am happy with how I have started (the season) and I feel that this team is making history as well as myself and hopefully I can do more to be remembered by."

Free-scoring Real on the road
Real Madrid, who are fifth in the table, responded after picking up just one point from two games with a 6-2 win over Rayo Vallecano and then beat Ajax 3-0 in the Champions League. They travel to Espanyol with Kaka restored to the starting eleven after a long battle with injury and loss of form.

"I feel a debt to the club for always having stood by me, it would have been easier to leave but I never considered that. I have the dream of triumphing at Madrid and I want to achieve it," said the Brazilian. "The results mean the atmosphere could be better in the dressing room but we are all united."

Real Betis are the surprise leaders even though they lost their last match away to Getafe and they face Levante who are also doing better than expected, sitting in third place. Following their summer investment there was plenty of expectation at Malaga and they have started well with Getafe their next opponents.

Sevilla beat Valencia last weekend and now meet Atletico Madrid, another side aiming for a place in the Champions League.

Atletico had back-to-back 4-0 wins before being brought back down to earth losing 5-0 to Barcelona. Valencia will look to bounce back against Granada.

Miguel Angel Nadal will be the caretaker coach of Mallorca against Osasuna after Michael Laudrup resigned over differences of opinion with the club's sports director Lorenzo Serra Ferrer.

Athletic Bilbao and Racing Santander are both struggling in the bottom three and take on Real Sociedad and Rayo Vallecano respectively, while Villarreal entertain Zaragoza.