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Barca equal record

MADRID, January 31- Pep Guardiola's Barcelona side made more history at the weekend when they equalled the record number of successive league wins held by arch rivals Real Madrid.

A Lionel Messi brace and a Pedro Rodriguez strike sealed Saturday’s 3-0 win at Hercules – their 15th victory which drew them level with a 50-year-old record held by the great Real Madrid team, captained by Alfredo di Stefano, of the 1960/61 season.

"It’s an immense honour to share this record with a team such as (Alfredo) Di Stefano’s Madrid," Guardiola said.

"It’s stood for half a century and that just shows what a tough thing it is to achieve.

"There was an especially happy atmosphere amongst the players. This has always been a tricky ground for us and we came into the game after a lot of matches recently, but despite all that, the players have again given a great lesson.

"They knew the importance of winning here and the chance of equalling the record gave us an extra incentive."

Barcelona, who hold a seven-point lead over Real Madrid at the league summit after Madrid’s 1-0 loss at Osasuna, can beat the record with victory at home to Atletico Madrid next weekend.

"It was an important game (against Hercules), like all the others, but it was an especially important win for us," said goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

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"It’s a proud honour to equal this number of wins on the trot. It’s important for us and let’s hope we continue the run."

It has been an incredible season from the champions who have won 19 out of their 21 league matches so far and set a league record 52 points at the halfway stage.

In the previous campaign Barcelona finished on 99 points to record the highest ever points tally and in 2009 the club became the first Spanish team to win a league, Kings Cup and Champions League treble.

Barcelona are going strong in all competitions this season and their next match is on Wednesday at Almeria in the second leg of the Kings Cup semi-final where they hold a 5-0 lead from the first leg.

"We wanted to compete in the same way we had in the first half of the season and it looks as if we are doing that," Guardiola said.

"Now we have to see if we can ensure the qualification to the Cup final and then go into the (Champions League) tie against Arsenal, which I have the feeling might define our season."

Barcelona travel to North London on February 16 for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie with the return leg at Camp Nou on March 8.

Ballon D’Or winner Messi scored all four goals in the 4-1 second leg win over Arsenal in last season’s Champions League quarter-final and is in fine form with the brace against Hercules taking his league total to 21.

"Messi is a competitive animal. He’s just 23 and he’s scored 164 times – if he carries on like this, he’s going to smash all the records," Guardiola added.

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