Real hope for Getafe
After reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the second successive season Barcelona are back in league action on Saturday when they travel to Getafe, who have proved a difficult customer for the Catalans in recent seasons.
Barca have a six-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table but have failed to beat Getafe in their last three league meetings, while Getafe famously thrashed Barca 4-0 to reach the 2007 King's Cup final. Real will hope their city neighbours, just four points above the drop zone, can do them a favour in the title race, while Real can fulfil their end of the bargain by beating third-bottom Recreativo Huelva.
On Wednesday Barcelona overcame Bayern Munich to reach the last four of the UEFA Champions League - where they will face Chelsea - and midfielder Xavi admits they have a tough six weeks in store as they go in search of an historic treble. "The team is in spectacular form both physically and mentally and is ready to face a really tough month and a half," said the Spaniard. "We have to round off what we're doing with trophies and we are fighting to win all three competitions, although it'll be very difficult."
Real have not allowed Barcelona to stretch their advantage at the summit with an impressive unbeaten run in 2009 and Portuguese defender Pepe believes his side are mentally tough enough to come from behind and snatch the crown. "This season we want to show that we are brave and have the desire to win the title," said Pepe. "The arrival of the new coach (Juande Ramos) has given us a new mentality. Getafe beat Sevilla last weekend and they will be on a high going into the Barcelona game. We hope they go in full of confidence and make life hard for Barca."
Former Real coach Bernd Schuster took a swipe at the club this week, saying they wouldn't be able to attract coaches like Arsenal's Arsene Wenger or Liverpool's Rafa Benitez due to the club's insistence on controlling their transfer policy. Ramos, who only has a six-month contract, has done his chances of keeping the job no harm at all by winning 14 out of his 16 league games in charge.
Contest for Europe
The game of the weekend sees two UEFA Champions League contenders come face to face when Valencia host Sevilla at the Mestalla Stadium on Sunday. Third-placed Sevilla are eight points ahead of Valencia, who will be keen to avenge this season's King's Cup quarter-final defeat to the Andalucian side.
"Valencia are behind us and playing well so it is going to be a difficult game which is crucial for both sides," said Sevilla's Aldo Duscher. "We will still have an advantage whatever the result but we have tough games coming up against Barcelona, Real and Villarreal."
Valencia have taken advantage of Villarreal's poor form to climb to fourth but face a fight to stay there with Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Malaga all still in the hunt. "Our fans know it is a big game to help ensure we are in the Champions League next season," explained Valencia defender Carlos Marchena.
Villarreal, runners-up last season, have lost three out of their last four league matches to surrender fourth and are now one point behind Valencia going into Sunday's trip to Valladolid. Villarreal limped out of the Champions League to Arsenal on Wednesday - losing 4-1 on aggregate - and need to restore confidence quickly, although injuries to Spanish internationals Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla have not helped.
Captain Senna is absent for three weeks with a leg injury while Cazorla is out for the season with a broken leg. "We were beaten by a better side," Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said after the Arsenal defeat. "Now we have to concentrate fully on the league to make sure we are in the competition next season."
Atletico Madrid, three points behind Valencia, host troubled Numancia, hoping to snatch a top-four spot and a much-needed Champions League financial windfall that would help them hold onto stars such as Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan.