Lionel Messi could not have come any closer to scoring without actually hitting the back of the net during Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Deportivo on Sunday night.
The Argentina international, who assisted the opening goal for Luis Suarez and produced a typically masterful performance, hit the woodwork three times over the course of the 90 minutes.
He also had a second-half penalty saved by Depor goalkeeper Rubén Martínez, who was somewhat fortunate that referee Antonio Mateu didn’t reorder the spot-kick to be retaken because he was a good couple of feet off his line when the save was made.
Paulinho and Suarez both netted a brace to secure all three points for Barça, who now find themselves six points clear at the top of La Liga after Valencia suffered a shock 2-1 defeat away at Eibar.
Atletico Madrid jumped above Los Che into second position thanks to a 1-0 win over Alaves, while fourth-placed Real Madrid have a game in hand over the top three following their participation at the Club World Cup.
Madrid’s next match is, of course, against Barcelona at the Bernabeu - and in order to stand any chance of catching Ernesto Valverde’s side, they’ll need to secure maximum points.
We all remember what happened in this fixture last season.
Barça won 3-2 in one of the most thrilling Clasicos of the modern era and it was Messi’s last-gasp goal that won it for the visitors.
Messi can break Gerd Muller's record against Real Madrid
If the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scores again at Madrid’s home ground this weekend, he will break Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of most goals for a single club in Europe’s top five leagues.
Messi equalled the record last week, against Villarreal, and should have broken it at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
Barcelona fans have a theory about Messi
However, Barça fans on Twitter reckon Messi missed all those chances against Depor because he plans to break the record at the Bernabeu.
Check out the tweets…
Messi has hit the woodwork 14 times this season
We’d love to believe this is true but we’re just not buying it.
Messi has hit the woodwork 14 times this season - fourteen! - so it's more of a case of his radar being a little wayward at the moment.
Still, there’s no denying that it *would* be extra special for Messi is he breaks Muller’s record in front of Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of the Real Madrid players, staff and supporters inside the Bernabeu.
You wouldn’t bet against him doing it next weekend, would you?
Video: Messi's highlights v Deportivo
Watch how unlucky Messi was not to score against Deportivo here...
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