La Liga Preview: Barca look to keep in touch

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Osasuna could get back to winning ways against an unlikely opponent this Saturday as Barcelona come to town.

The Spanish champions have been extremely poor on the road this season, having won just four out of their 10 away league games; a major factor in the ground they have lost to Real Madrid in the title race.

Barcelona can take some confidence from their midweek semi-final victory over Valencia after goals from Cesc Fabregas and Xavi secured their place in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, and Pep Guardiola’s side can reduce their deficit on Real Madrid with a win over Osasuna, who play on Sunday.

Diego Simeone’s undefeated run as new Atletico Madrid manager will be put to the test again in the first fixture on Saturday as his side travel to Racing Santander, who are 18th in the league and have an extremely poor home record this season.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Real Betis will have a tough task arresting their slide down the table as they host high-flying Athletic Bilbao, with Marcelo Bielsa’s team the current entertainers in Spanish football, having secured a Copa del Rey final with Barcelona as well scoring six goals in their last two league games; four of which came from Fernando Llorente.

Real Madrid are the late kick-off on Sunday as they host fourth place Levante and Jose Mourinho will be hopeful to get revenge against the only team other than Barcelona to have beaten the league leaders this season.

Levante started this season on fire and enjoyed a couple of weeks on top of the league, with a 1-0 home victory over Real Madrid being one of the highlights, as they out-muscled and out-smarted Mourinho’s side.

Real Madrid will be without Hamit Altintop after the midfielder has been sidelined with a calf injury; Mourinho will surely be confident his team can beat Levante at the Bernabeu, as Juan Ignacio Martinez’s side haven’t won a game in the league since early December.

Espanyol can overtake Levante in fourth place and stay there if Madrid can beat them, with a win over bottom-placed Real Zaragoza in the early kick-off on Sunday.

Espanyol are seven games unbeaten in the league and they will surely be optimistic of stretching that run further at home against Zaragoza who haven’t picked up a win since mid-October.

Valencia also have a good opportunity to get their first win in five games and end a run of three consecutive defeats as they host second from bottom Sporting Gijon.

Unai Emery’s side will have to pick themselves up after their semi-final defeat to Barca during the week and finally start gaining points in the league again.

Villarreal will be looking to avoid slipping back into the relegation zone again as they host Granada, who are in 14th place, knowing a win would allow them to leap frog their opponents and put some breathing space between themselves and the bottom of the table.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Malaga entertain Mallorca at home while Getafe travel to Rayo Vallecano; Monday night’s fixture sees Real Sociedad play host to Sevilla.


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