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La Liga preview: Barcelona, Real refocus on domestic matters

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 29 Apr 2011

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Still bristling from their fiery Champions League clash, Barcelona and Real Madrid return to tussling over the La Liga title this weekend.

Barca must overcome the distraction of their 2-0 win in the hostile environs of the Bernabeu, a victory that seemingly assures of them a trip to Wembley for the Champions League final, when they visit Real Sociedad on Saturday.

The Catalan giants lead Real by eight points in the La Liga standings, an uncomfortably close margin with five games still remaining in the season, and could be making do without Lionel Messi for the trip to San Sebastian.

Messi, for whom superlatives are fast becoming inadequate, scored both of Barca’s goals in the semi-final first leg to take his season tally to 52 across all competitions.

But the Argentinean superstar reportedly suffered a minor muscle tear in the process, and given the 23-year-old’s history of soft-tissue injuries it is believed Pep Guardiola will put his talisman on ice for Real’s return leg at the Camp Nou next week.

Messi’s absence will no doubt be welcome news for struggling Sociedad, who have lost six of their past seven league outings and sit a mere three points from the drop zone in 12th.

Real have plenty of their own distractions to deal with, not the least an ongoing UEFA investigation into inflammatory comments made by manager Jose Mourinho following their loss to Barca.

The proud club, still seething after Pepe saw red for a challenge on Barca defender Dani Alves, will carry that frustration into their home clash against Real Zaragoza.

Zaragoza escaped the relegation zone with a 1-0 defeat of Almeria last time out, but are still just two points from the bottom three and perilously close to the Segunda Division.

Also on Saturday, Atletico Madrid will look to put some distance between themselves and fellow Europa League hopefuls Sevilla with a trip to Deportivo La Coruna.

They will need to be at their best, as Sevilla face an almost-certain win on Sunday when they take on bottom-placed Almeria, who are winless in five games.

Valencia can go some lengths to shoring up third place when they visit Osasuna, who find themselves in the relegation places at the wrong end of the season on the back of a four-match losing streak.

Villarreal, meanwhile, can get back into the hunt for third place when they host Getafe.

Rounding out Sunday’s fixtures, mid-table sides Levante and Sporting Gijon face off at the Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Malaga host Hercules in a relegation dogfight and Mallorca face a Racing Santander outfit hoping to avoid a third successive loss.

Finally, European hopefuls Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol come together for what should be a terrific match at the Estadio Cornella-El Prat on Monday.

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