Caceres daunted by Barcelona strength
Martin Caceres, on loan to Sevilla from Barcelona, knows that his current side will need a fair share of good fortune if they are to prevail against his all-conquering parent club on Saturday.
League leaders Barcelona came through a controversial UEFA Champions League tie against Arsenal in mid-week, winning 3-1 for a 4-3 aggregate victory after visiting striker Robin van Persie was sent off at Camp Nou. Arsenal were drawing 1-1 when Van Persie received a second yellow card for kicking the ball away, but Caceres does not believe their tactic of defending deep and inviting pressure is an advisable strategy for Sevilla to adopt.
"The key is to be concentrated for 90 minutes and to try and impose our own football but it won't be easy as all their players have tremendous ability," said the Uruguayan, who is competing with Alexis and Federico Fazio for a starting place at centre-back.
"We will have to run a lot to beat them, be lucky and also play with the right mentality to win the match. Whoever starts in the centre of defence will go out and do their best. We obviously want to win but it is going to be very tough."
Sevilla are in the hunt for a place in Europe but they suffered a set-back with defeat at Athletic Bilbao and now face a Barcelona side led by the magical feet of Lionel Messi, who has scored 27 goals so far in the league.
Real Madrid, seven points behind Barcelona, continue to wait for a slip-up but are likely to face Hercules without Cristiano Ronaldo, recovered from injury but expected to be rested ahead of the Champions League visit of Lyon. Esteban Granero could keep his place in midfield despite the return of Lassana Diarra from suspension after an impressive performance in the 3-1 win over Racing Santander.
"(Granero) is a great player who does everything well. He knows how to read the game and his positioning is good. He will be an important player," said team-mate Xabi Alonso, who is happy with Real's progress this season.
"We are going well and in a good position to start the final run-in. The team is in a good frame of mind and looking forward to playing some important games. We are optimistic about the Champions League and then we are also in the (King's) Cup final (against Barcelona)."
Valencia may be riding high in La Liga but an early exit from the Champions League by Schalke has put the pressure on coach Unai Emery, whose side visit Real Zaragoza on Saturday. For the first half of the season, Villarreal managed to keep on the heels of the top two but they prepare to meet Sporting Gijon having lost their consistency, partly due to injuries.
The battle for a UEFA Europa League place has opened up, with Espanyol having lost six out of their last seven games and Bilbao ending a four-game losing run by beating Sevilla. Espanyol host Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, while Bilbao travel to Getafe in the Monday night game. It means the door has opened up for Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, who are away to second-from-bottom Almeria.
Malaga's outlook is bleak as they sit at the foot of the table following two straight defeats, including a 7-0 thrashing by Real Madrid. They face a difficult away trip to Real Sociedad, one of the surprise packages this season, who still have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe.