Alves focussed for Madrigal, Real host Sporting
Full-back Dani Alves has warned his Barcelona team-mates they cannot afford to make any slip-ups between now and the end of the season. Barça resume league action following the international break with a trip to Villarreal on Saturday.
At the moment they have the comfort of a five-point gap back to second-placed Real Madrid, but Alves knows the stuffing could soon be ripped out of their cushion should the the leaders start to throw points away.
"It's very important that we win on Saturday away at Villarreal," Alves told www.fcbarcelona.com. "A victory would send out a message, and every mistake from now on could be costly. A win would allow us to, at least, maintain the difference of five points over Madrid, nothing more."
Barca have doubts over forwards Lionel Messi and Bojan Krkic. Messi received treatment on a slight groin injury after pulling out of Argentina's friendly with Costa Rica this week, though the club have stated there is no problem with his adductor muscle. Bojan is a doubt for the trip to El Madrigal after straining his ankle while playing for Spain U-21s on Monday.
Villarreal midfielder Cani admitted with unusual candour he would be happy to see Messi absent from the Barca line-up. "I would prefer not to play against Messi because he is the best player in the world," he told www.villarrealcf.es. "If in the end he played and we won, our victory would be more sweet, but we want the three points."
Villarreal are locked on 54 points with third-placed Valencia as the two battle to be the best of the rest. Valencia travel to Getafe on Saturday, while Real Madrid host Sporting Gijon, with everyone present at the Bernabeu set to pay tribute to recently retired Brazil striker Ronaldo, a former Real player.
General manager Jorge Valdano told www.realmadrid.com: "Fans are going to show profound respect for Ronaldo during Saturday's tribute before the match. He provided this club with a lot of thrills. We want fans to give him the farewell he deserves and for him to take the honorary kick-off. He left many fond memories here."
Sunday will see new Hercules coach Miroslaw Djukic take charge of his new side for the first time as they travel to Real Sociedad. Former Serbia boss Djukic faces a tough task having replaced Esteban Vigo following their 4-0 defeat at home to Osasuna which left the newly-promoted club at the foot of the table.
They are level on points with Almeria, who host Athletic Bilbao in the Monday evening game, and three points behind Malaga, who head to Levante on Sunday. Real Zaragoza, one point above the relegation zone, head to Sevilla while Deportivo La Coruna face Real Mallorca.
In Sunday's other games, Espanyol host Racing Santander while Atletico Madrid head to Pamplona to take on Osasuna.