Giant-killers Espanyol look to conquer
Having already slain the apparently invincible Barcelona, giant-killers Espanyol now turn their attention to Real Madrid who have reduced the gap at the top of the table to seven points with a nine-match winning run in the league.
Last weekend then bottom of the table Espanyol were given little or no chance before facing Barcelona, but an astute tactical performance pressing the home side's defence and closing down the midfield, combined with the tiredness of their opponents, led them to inflicting only the second defeat of the season on the La Liga frontrunners.
Espanyol forward Luis Garcia believes that the visit of Real - who enter the match on a low after being beaten 1-0 by Liverpool at home in their UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday - has come at the perfect time. "They are exactly who we want to face at the moment, we know that Real Madrid are on a good run but we have to think of our own situation and we have to take the game to them thinking about what we achieved at the Nou Camp," he said.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has issued a message of support for Pep Guardiola's team ahead of the visit to mis-firing Atletico Madrid. "We still have a seven point lead which is considerable but it is not enough to give us the league title. It does mean though we can deal with our present problems with calmness," he said after the team could only manage a draw with Lyon in their UEFA Champions League clash.
Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez has appointed Argentine Federico Fazio as the man to mark Athletic Bilbao's in-form striker Fernando Llorente, who made his debut for the Spain national team against England recently. Sevilla consolidated their position in the top-four with a key win over Atletico Madrid last weekend.
Valencia midfielder Ruben Baraja blames too much pressure on the team for their recent run of one win in four matches. "We have left the Champions League places for the first time and people say we are going downhill, they don't realise there is still a long way to go in the league. The problem is that at the start of the season the expectation was too high," he said ahead of their match with Valladolid.
Villarreal appear to have bounced back from a dip in form - though they will be disappointed by the 1-1 UEFA Champions League home draw with Greek side Panathinaikos earlier this week - and will now look to inflict further suffering on Real Betis who were on the receiving end of 6-1 thrashing by Real Madrid. "Now we are more relaxed and we are in a good mood to face what is ahead of us," said Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla.
Malaga are beginning to believe that a place in Europe next season can be more than just a dream as they go into the Andalusian derby against Recreativo Huelva on the back of a convincing victory over Valladolid. Deportivo la Coruna are also in the hunt for a top-six finish but they will find plenty of resistance from bottom side Numancia who are battling for their lives and the club has appealed for a big crowd on Sunday to back the team.
Mallorca will look to escape the relegation zone with victory over fellow strugglers Sporting Gijon and continue their good run which has seen them put together back-to-back wins. Osasuna, level with Mallorca on 24 points but with a superior goal difference, travel to Racing Santander. Almeria and Getafe have suffered from a lack of consistency in recent weeks and they face each other with one eye looking over the shoulders as they sit with the relegation battle looming below them.