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Best-ever start for Barca as Lionel Messi nears record

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona made the best start in the history of Spain’s La Liga with a 5-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

The leader’s 13 wins and a draw surpasses Real Madrid’s 12 wins and two draws to begin the 1991-92 campaign.

The milestone comes in the first year under coach Tito Vilanova, who took over from Pep Guardiola after four campaigns as his assistant.

“I’m very happy for the performance of my players and for having achieved the record,” said Vilanova. “It’s good to have won so many games, but I am even happier that even winning 5-1 we were still looking for a sixth goal.”

Messi’s 11th double of the season also left him one goal shy of Gerd Mueller’s record of 85 in one calendar year, set in 1972. Messi, pictured, has five more games to try to beat the record, one in the Champions League against Benfica, one in the Spanish Cup against Cordoba and three in La Liga.

Valencia sacked coach Mauricio Pellegrino last night after a 5-2 defeat at home to Real Sociedad left them in 12th place. “We have been exchanging opinions, debating and we have taken the decision to sack Pellegrino,” club president Manuel Llorente said.

Last night’s defeat followed a humiliating 4-0 loss at Malaga last weekend and, although they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, it was one loss too many.

Llorente added: “As you can all think, it is painful,” he said. “But we have to think about the scope of our responsibility, and we have to take such decisions.

“In all the time I’ve been at Valencia CF, this is the first time we removed a manager. I feel responsible – I’m the president.

“It is not only down to Mauricio Pellegrino, but it’s my responsibility, the players... and I believe that all those who direct the club are responsible.”

Juventus extended their Serie A lead by beating 10-man Torino 3-0 in the Turin derby.

Claudio Marchisio scored twice and Sebastian Giovinco once to punish Torino after Kamil Glik was sent off for an horrific challenge.

Juventus are now five points ahead of Napoli, who host bottom side Pescara today.

The big match in Germany saw Bayern Munich’s winless streak against Borussia Dortmund extended to five matches in a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern’s lead at the top of the Bundeliga was cut to eight points as Toni Kroos gave Bayern the lead in the 67th minute, only for Mario Goetze to equalise seven minutes later for third-placed Dortmund.

In France, big-spending Paris St Germain lost 2-1 to mid-table Nice. Second-half goals by Eric Bautheac and Valentin Eysseric cancelled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s strike. PSG are five points behind leaders Olympique Lyon, for whom Bafetimbi Gomis scored the winner in a 1-0 home 
victory over defending champions Montpellier.

 

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