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No time for European hangover as Spanish title race heats up

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FC Barcelona and Real Madrid

Madrid: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid both face difficult away matches this weekend in Spain’s La Liga football competition.

Leaders Barcelona have to cross town to face local rivals, Espanyol, who can be relied on to give everything they have against their neighbours, while Real Madrid face a difficult trip to the north-west of Spain to face an in-form Celta Vigo, reports Xinhua.

Both sides will travel with tired legs, but their moral sky high after qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League during the week and the issue of squad rotations will be vital for coaches Luis Enrique and Carlo Ancelotti.


The ease of Barcelona’s win at home to Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday means Enrique may not make too many changes. He was able to rest midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and the only likely changes are the entry of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo into his starting 11, against a rival whose main attacking threat will come from former Barcelona youngster Sergio Garcia.

Real Madrid do not play until Sunday and Ancelotti will still be without injured duo of midfielders Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, although striker Karim Benzema has a chance of recovering from the knee injury which kept him out of Wednesday’s Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.

Marcelo will return at left back and Asier Illaramendi could play in midfield, despite Sergio Ramos’ impressive display in that role against Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid meanwhile need to bounce back from their Champions League exit as they face struggling Elche on Saturday with little time to recover from their European exertions.

Striker Fernando Torres is likely to start against Elche.

The round of matches kicks off on Friday as bottom-placed Cordoba entertain Athletic Club Bilbao, who could move level with seventh-placed Malaga if they win.

Saturday sees Getafe, who are not safe from relegation yet, at home to Levante, who still need points to climb away from the danger zone, while Real Sociedad play against Villarreal.

Malaga face relegation-threatened Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday, while Almeria take on Eibar.

Sevilla hope to keep up their battle for a top four finish at home to Rayo Vallecano, while Valencia will look to win at home against second from bottom Granada on Monday.