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BARCELONA, Spain – Lionel Messi has another scoring record in sight when Barcelona visits Almeria on Saturday looking to bounce back from consecutive losses that have cost it the Spanish league lead.
Messi scored his 70th and 71st goals in the Champions League in a 2-0 win at Ajax on Wednesday to equal Raul Gonzalez's all-time record in Europe's top-tier club competition.
The Argentina forward can now match the Spanish league's scoring milestone as he is just one goal short of Telmo Zarra's mark of 251, a record the Athletic Bilbao great established in 1955.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, will try to extend his club-record run of scoring in eight straight league appearances when the leaders hosts crosstown minnow Rayo Vallecano.
Madrid leads Valencia and Atletico Madrid by one point, with Barcelona and Sevilla another point behind.
Here are some things to know about round 11 of the Spanish league:
BALE BACK: Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has been facing questions about whether Gareth Bale, the winger Madrid bought for a world-record 100-million euros (then $132-million) last season, has a place in his starting 11.
While Bale nursed a muscle injury, Madrid didn't skip a beat and won all five games, including a 3-1 victory over Barcelona.
And with the Santiago Bernabeu crowd chanting the name of midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and thrilled with James Rodriguez, some have questioned whether Bale shouldn't be left on the bench.
Ancelotti is not having any of it and said Bale will start against Rayo after coming on as a substitute against Liverpool.
"I see Bale is fine," Ancelotti said. "I didn't start him because he is just back from injury. He felt fine. He will start on Saturday."
SUAREZ SEARCHING: While Messi dazzled in Amsterdam with his goals and incisive playmaking, new teammate Luis Suarez was left scoreless against his former club to remain without a goal in three games since returning from his four-month biting ban.
Messi is not worried and expects the goals to come for Suarez once he settles in and learns Barcelona's possession-based style.
"We are happy Luis is with us and he is adapting to our philosophy," Messi said. "This was his third game and we expect more from him given the class of striker he is."
Suarez will have a good opportunity to get on track against an Almeria team that has lost three straight and is winless in all five games played at its Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium this season.
WINNING VALENCIA: Valencia has had a remarkable turnaround under new Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo and new owner Peter Lim, the Singaporean investor.
The team looks like it is halting years of decline after losing only once in the first 10 rounds.
Valencia is in second place before hosting struggling Athletic Bilbao. The Basques have won two straight in the league, but are in 12th place and coming off a 2-0 loss to FC Porto on Wednesday that ended their chances of advancing in the Champions League.
TROUBLE AT ANOETA: Atletico visits a Real Sociedad side that is still trying to find a replacement for fired coach Jagoba Arrasate.
Sociedad let Arrasate go with the team having won just once in 10 rounds. The club president said former Manchester United boss David Moyes is one of four candidates to take over.
Antoine Griezmann will make his return to San Sebastian, where he played for five seasons before transferring to the defending champions in the offseason.
STEADY SEVILLA: Sevilla has won four straight home games in the league and welcomes relegation-threatened Levante.
Coach Unai Emery has melded new arrivals Denis Suarez, Aleix Vidal and Gerard Deulofeu into a side led by Colombia striker Carlos Bacca to produce one of the league's most versatile attacks.
Levante, meanwhile, is tied with Granada for the fewest goals scored in the 20-team league with just six.
Sevilla hosts Standard Liege in the Europa League on Thursday.