Casillas calm while Barça face Levante
Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has warned his team-mates not to get carried away by their position at the top of La Liga. Madrid head to Sporting Gijon on Saturday three points clear of rivals Barcelona with a game in hand.
With Barça having won the title in each of the last three seasons, it is a tantalising position for Madrid to find themselves in. But Casillas sounded a note of caution when he told www.realmadrid.com: "We're doing a great job and must continue to do so. We have great objectives, but we must focus on short-term goals and on one game at a time."
Madrid, who should have Cristiano Ronaldo available after a minor injury scare earlier this week, have won their last nine matches in La Liga and it is hard to imagine that run will not continue against a Sporting side who are in the relegation zone and lost 4-0 to Levante last time out. That would put the pressure firmly back on Barcelona, who beat Rayo Vallecano 4-0 in midweek but remain in Madrid's slipstream thanks to their defeat by Getafe last weekend.
Things do not get any easier for Barça as they face high-flying Levante, who sit just five points behind the Catalan giants and will be aiming to do Madrid a favour. Barcelona fans are not used to being second best, and Cesc Fabregas admits that is a pressure he and his team-mates must simply deal with. "Barça always have to win," he told FIFA.com. "That's what people expect, and that is what we must do. That's what great teams and clubs do."
Third-placed Valencia also beat Rayo in their last match - 2-1 last weekend - and they face another tough challenge against Espanyol on Saturday. They may have to make do without in-form striker Roberto Soldado, who has a slight injury. Defender Antonio Barragan told the club's website: "I don't think that he will miss out against Espanyol because of it, but if he does, then we won't collapse, because we have other players ready to step in."
Also on Saturday, bottom club Racing Santander end a week of upheaval by hosting Villarreal. Hector Cuper departed the club on Tuesday following last weekend's 2-1 loss at Real Mallorca, a result which left them rooted to the foot of the table, three points from safety. A coaching team of Juan Jose Gonzalez, Fede Castanos and Pablo Pinillos will take charge for Saturday's game.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid, who bounced back from yet another derby defeat at the hands of Real by beating Celtic in the Europa League in midweek, will attempt to extend Rayo's winless run to four. Fifth-placed Malaga go to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad, Osasuna host Real Betis, Mallorca entertain Athletic Bilbao and struggling Real Zaragoza head to Granada. Monday's game sees Sevilla welcome Getafe to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.