Crucial weekend for Madrid, Barca in La Liga

Madrid: The weekend in the Spanish La Liga football sees Barcelona in danger of waving an almost definitive goodbye to the league title, offering Real Madrid the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table.

Barcelona face the difficult trip to Pamplona to face Osasuna Saturday and although Barca have beaten Osasuna 8-0 and 4-0 in the Camp Nou this season, Pep Guardiola`s side know that their rivals are a much tougher rival to defeat at the El Sadar Stadium.

Osasuna are currently ninth in the league table and that is mainly due to the five wins and four draws they have managed in front of their fans.

Barca travel after reaching the final of the Copa del Rey Wednesday, but have been given little recovery time and have a long injury list. The good news is that Andres Iniesta is available though he may not start, he will be on the bench.

Saturday also sees Atletico Madrid aim to continue their revival away to third from bottom Racing Santander, a club that appears to be facing a severe financial crisis. A win could take Atletico into fourth place, depending on results elsewhere.

Athletic Club Bilbao also reached the Cup final during the week and travel to play Betis. Three points for Athletic would also give them a chance of moving into the top four, but tiredness will also be a factor for the Basques against a Betis side capable of both the best and the worst in footballing terms.

Real Madrid entertain Levante Sunday and should Barca fail to win 24 hours earlier, they will expect to open up an almost definitive lead at the top of the table. Madrid are the leaders with 55 points and Barca lie second on 48 points.

Levante beat Madrid earlier in the season, but have suffered injuries and departures since then and are no longer the compact unit that was so tough to beat earlier in the campaign, Xinhua reports.

In the other matches Sunday, Espanyol entertain rock bottom Zaragoza. Espanyol will expect all three points and to move above Levante in the classification against a rival that is already 11 points off safety and looking doomed to relegation.

Malaga have to win at home to Mallorca otherwise Manuel Pellegrini faces the sack from a side that spent a lot of money over the summer, but which still fails to look like an effective team.

Valencia will try to erase their cup disappointment from midweek at the expense of a Sporting Gijon side that increasingly looks as if it will join Zaragoza in falling into the second division, while there is a Madrid derby of sorts as Rayo Vallecano entertain Getafe.

Bureau Report