Messi hails teammates after being named best player in Europe


Barcelona star Lionel Messi will have an extra bounce in his step on Sunday when the Catalan side host Malaga after being voted as Europe’s best footballer by UEFA for the second time in his career.

Messi, whose team opened their season last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao, scored 60 goals and set up 28 more in all competitions for Barca during the 2014-15 campaign to help them capture a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.

He beat team-mate Luis Suarez and the previous winner, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, to Europe’s top individual honour.

Messi also scooped the award after the 2010-2011 campaign.

“I depend a lot on my team,” Messi told TV station TV3. “Had we not had a good team, we would not have achieved all that we managed last season.

“I feel a lot of joy but this success I share with my team-mates as well.”

Barca, who will begin their Champions League title defense at Luis Enrique’s former club Roma next month, are still without Neymar. The striker is injured and will miss this weekend’s game at the Nou Camp.

SEE MORE: Where to watch La Liga on US TV and Internet.

Moreover, defender Gerard Pique is serving a four-match ban and will be unavailable on Sunday.

Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez will look for an improved performance from his players when Los Blancos go in search of their first league win of the season at home to promoted Real Betis on Saturday.

Benitez’s men, who begin their Champions League campaign against Shakhtar Donetsk next month, were held to a goalless draw at newly-promoted Sporting Gijon in their opener.

Fernando Llorente could make his Sevilla debut against Atletico Madrid on Sunday at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

The Spanish international forward has joined the Europa League winners on a three-year contract and returns to La Liga two seasons after leaving Athletic Bilbao for Juventus.

Atletico are one of the five Primera Division teams to have won on the first weekend of the season.

They beat Las Palmas 1-0 while Sevilla drew 0-0 at Malaga.

Valencia head into Sunday’s home match against Deportivo La Coruna in buoyant mood after clinching their spot in the Champions League group stages.

Los Che lost 2-1 at Monaco in midweek but prevailed in their play-off tie 4-3 on aggregate and will return to Europe’s elite club competition following a two-year absence.

Valencia’s return means that Spain is the first country to have five teams in the group stages.

Real Sociedad will be boosted by the return of midfielder Asier Illarramendi when Sporting visit Anoeta.

Illarramendi joined his boyhood club this week on a permanent transfer after a disappointing two-year stint with Real Madrid.

Athletic, who beat Zilina on Thursday to progress on away goals to the Europa League group stages, take on Basque neighbors Eibar on Sunday in Ipurua.

SEE MORE: Watch La Liga for free this weekend with a trial to fuboTV.

Celta Vigo will look to pick up where they left off after last weekend’s 2-1 win at Levante when they host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Levante are in the Canary Islands to play against promoted Las Palmas with both sides looking to hit back from season-opening defeats.

Getafe will host Granada in Madrid with both sides coming off defeats.

The second round of Primera Division games kicks off on Friday when Villarreal host Espanyol.

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