Rivals meet, Real welcome Sevilla
Barcelona's 21-match unbeaten run in all competitions could come under serious threat this weekend as they make the trip across town to Espanyol, who boast a 100 per cent home record this season.
Barça are in stunning form, claiming victories in all but three of those 21 games, while in winning their last nine successive matches Pep Guardiola's men have scored 37 times and conceded just three - the last of which came 604 minutes ago.
Playmaker Lionel Messi, meanwhile, is proving almost unstoppable, netting 27 for Barça in all competitions already this season, with 21 of those coming in the last 14 games. The Argentinian is now joint top of the Primera Division scoring charts with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, with both players having netted 17.
However, Barça and Messi face a challenge on Saturday as they go to Espanyol's Cornella-El Prat stadium. Espanyol have won all seven home league games this season while letting in just two goals, form that has helped lift Mauricio Pochettino's men up to fourth in the standings, two points behind Villarreal.
Barça captain Carles Puyol, whose side have only won once in their last five league and cup visits to their city rivals, was quoted as saying on his club's website: "For me it's the hardest away game we have left this season, but we have high hopes of doing well and returning with the three points. Both teams are in strong form, each has its qualities. It will be a difficult game for both teams."
Pochettino is under no illusions about the task facing his side though, saying: "Barça, right now and statically, are among the two or three best teams of all time. Maybe even the best."
Barça hold a two-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid heading into the final round of league fixtures in 2010. Real could be without at least eight players for Sunday's visit of Sevilla but still remain firm favourites to beat the out-of-sorts Andalusians.
Xabi Alonso and Marcelo are both suspended for Jose Mourinho's side while Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka, Fernando Gago, Sergio Canales, Sergio Ramos and Jerzy Dudek are all injured. Nevertheless, Real still have plenty of positives to draw on for the match. They have won their last 14 competitive matches at the Bernabeu and are averaging four goals a game in their last eight appearances in front of their own fans.
Also, Cristiano Ronaldo is in rich goalscoring form, while opponents Sevilla lost five successive matches prior to last night's 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund - a result that saw Gregorio Manzano's men progress through to the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League and gain a much-needed confidence boost in the process.
In third place, eight points behind Real, are Villarreal and they will hope to get their league campaign back on track following last weekend's gut-wrenching last-gasp defeat to nine-man Getafe when they host Real Mallorca. Upwardly-mobile Getafe go to Almeria - who are the only the only team yet to win at home this season in La Liga - while Levante host Athletic Bilbao and fifth-placed Valencia are away to Real Sociedad.
At the foot of the table, bottom two Real Zaragoza and Sporting Gijon go in search of their first away wins of the season when they travel to Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna, respectively, while Malaga are at home to Atletico Madrid. Monday night's match pits Racing Santander against Hercules.