La Liga title favourites Barcelona look to bury Cup woe
Barcelona: Real Madrid may be celebrating after winning the King`s Cup but it is beaten finalists Barcelona who are clear favourites to win the league with an eight-point lead as they prepare to face Osasuna this weekend.
The top two sides in Spain have dominated domestic football this season and the focus has been on their four head-to-heads over 18 days which can determine success at home and abroad.
When the sides met last autumn at the Nou Camp, Barcelona took Real apart 5-0 while last weekend in the return fixture in the league they managed a 1-1 draw.
The arch-rivals met again on Wednesday in the final of the King`s Cup with Real clinching a 1-0 win thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo`s extra-time winner.
"It is always better to win than lose but you can`t win all the time. We now have to pick ourselves up and prepare for the weekend. We have done it before, these players have been together for a long time and we will be ready," said Barca coach Pep Guardiola.
Ahead are two more games against Real in the Champions League but Guardiola is not being distracted.
"Now we have six games in the league and we need to wrap that up as soon as possible. After the Osasuna match then we can start looking at the semi-finals of the Champions League and the possibility of going to Wembley (for the final)," he added.
Real play first on Saturday in a tough away game at Valencia who have scored 12 goals in their last three matches.
Real coach Jose Mourinho also refused to get carried away by next Wednesday`s Champions League clash against Guardiola`s men.
"This match has nothing to do with that we will see in the Champions League. Each will be different. We will see what happens between two great teams over the course of two matches. Anything is possible," he said.
Valencia practically assured themselves of third place with a victory over Villarreal, who face Sevilla, a fortnight ago.
"It will be a similar game to that against Villarreal, as they arrived with an important victory also in the Europa League and we beat them, it is all down to us," said Valencia striker Roberto Soldado.
There is little to choose though between the teams competing for the Europa League with Athletic Bilbao in pole position at the moment.
They face a Basque derby against Real Sociedad who have been on their worst run of the season but got their first victory in eight attempts last weekend against Sporting Gijon.
Below Athletic are Sevilla and Atletico Madrid who play a Levante side that have had an excellent second half to the season. Espanyol also remain in the hunt and they travel to Sporting Gijon.
At the other end of the table there is a key relegation battle between basement side Almeria, now seven points adrift, and Zaragoza who dropped back into the bottom three after Malaga beat Mallorca.
A resurgent Malaga, with just one defeat in five games, meet Racing Santander.
Hercules, also in the relegation zone, entertain Deportivo La Coruna while Getafe travel to Mallorca.
Saturday: Valencia vs Real Madrid, Barcelona vs Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad
Sunday: Mallorca vs Getafe, Sporting Gijon vs Espanyol, Hercules vs Deportivo La Coruna, Racing Santander vs Malaga, Atletico Madrid vs Levante, Sevilla vs Villarreal
Monday: Real Zaragoza vs Almeria.