An impressive Frederic Kanoute brace helped Sevilla come from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Saturday in a dress rehearsal of the Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday.
The Malian showed he was back to his best form by scoring either side of half time to help Sevilla beat Bilbao, who took the lead through Inaki Gabilondo.
Both sides started with weakened sides but while Sevilla were dominating it was Gabilondo who made the breakthrough after the visitors’ defence made a hash of clearing a corner and the left-winger fired home from 12 yards.
Kanoute though deservedly brought the sides level bringing the ball down well inside the area before beating the keeper and then after the break he calmly finished into the corner as Sevilla continued to take the game to Bilbao.
As the second half progressed Sevilla did take their foot off the pedal and late on Bilbao had chances to equalise notably through Gaizka Toquero but he missed in front of goal.
Later, Espanyol were looking for another David and Goliath act when they play Real Madrid at Montjuic having already toppled league leaders Barcelona a week ago.
Real travel to Espanyol in ominous form in the league having put together a nine match winning run which has seen the gap at the top of the table reduced to seven.
Real coach Juande Ramos believes a win is necessary to put behind them their Champions League set-back against Liverpool.
“We need to turn the page and concentrate on the league, all the games are important. If we are to catch Barcelona then there is no other option other than to pick up three points,” he said.
On Sunday, Barcelona face Atletico Madrid and midfielder Yaya Toure feels it’s imperative they don’t allow any more points to slip away.
“My team-mates and I are concentrated fully on the match at the Calderon because we know that we cannot allow Real to make any ground on us. Our last three games have been difficult for us in the way that the opposition have played,” he said.
Elsewhere, Villarreal will be looking to consolidate their Champions League place when they face Real Betis, while mis-firing Valencia below them aim to pick up ground with a win against Valladolid.
At the other end of the table Numancia are in deep trouble and have asked for a big attendance to get behind the players against Deportivo la Coruna.
Mallorca, who have put together back-to-back wins, know that a further victory against Sporting Gijon could take them clear of the relegation zone.