Valencia: Two of football's most intriguing coaching minds finally meet on the field on Sunday when Pep Guardiola's Barcelona take on Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao.
The two coaches face off for the first time since Bielsa took over Bilbao this season, and the Basque club has been steadily improving following a poor start.
Guardiola visited the former Argentina and Chile coach to pick his mind over tactics and philosophy after retiring from football in 2005. The Catalan coach then embarked on his coaching career, which stared with Barcelona's reserve squad before taking over the senior team to start the 2008-09 season.
Two of football\'s most intriguing coaching minds will meet when Guardiola\'s Barca take on Bielsa\'s Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona have won 12 trophies since Guardiola took charge, with the 40-year-old winning 144 of his 200 games, with just 17 losses.
"(Sunday) will be another good test," Guardiola said after his team beat Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday to remain undefeated in 17 games to start the season.
Messi scored a hat-trick for the second consecutive game in Prague - his fourth of the season - to take his goal tally to 22 from 17 games. The Argentina forward is only 33 goals away from Cesar Rodriguez's club record 235 goals.
"Messi will pass Cesar as the club's all-time leading scorer, it's already a done deal, and I don't discount him doing it this season," said Guardiola, who has seen Messi score 160 of his goals since he took over. "And he's only 24 years old, that says it all."
Bilbao are unbeaten in eight games in all competitions and have moved up to ninth, despite Bielsa's reign starting with three losses in his first six matches.
"We try to treat every game with the same importance," Bielsa said. "Whether it goes our way or not we'll see, but the idea out of the start is always the same."
Bilbao have a number of injury worries going into the match after 10 players were diagnosed with problems this week. And they also had a Europa League match at Salzburg to get through on Thursday.
Bilbao, who field only Basque-born players, are one of only three clubs to never have dropped out of the first division - the other two being Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Madrid top the standings, and will look to stay there by beating Osasuna despite an unusual noon start time on Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th goal for the Spanish giants in Wednesday's 2-0 win at Lyon in the Champions League, which was the club's ninth straight victory.
Madrid lead with 25 points, Barcelona have 24, Levante are third with 23 and Valencia are fourth with 21. Sevilla, who plays at Mallorca, are next closest on 17 points after their first loss of the season.
Meanwhile, early-season surprise Levante look to continue their strong start when local rivals Valencia visit on Saturday.
The Valencian neighbors haven't been this close in the standings in 48 years and Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez expects the team to have plenty of motivation after coming off their first loss of the season after 10 games.
"All realistic predictions say Valencia go in as favorites, but we're playing in their stadium, where they've won four straight so what does that say about favorites?" Valencia coach Unai Emery said on Thursday in a joint news conference with Martinez. "We have maximum respect for them, we have to remain humble and stay ambitious."
"But frankly, I'm surprised by all the expectations and interest generated (by the game)."
Valencia are without Ever Banega after the Argentina midfielder was ruled out six weeks with a knee injury.
In other games this weekend before the international break, it's - Real Betis vs Malaga; Granada vs Racing Santander; Zaragoza vs Sporting Gijon; Espanyol vs Villarreal; Rayo Vallecano vs Real Sociedad; and Getafe vs Atletico Madrid.