Neymar back to bolster Barca attack against Rayo
Barcelona: Barcelona may have been well short of their best since Christmas but they remain alive in all competitions and can look forward to welcoming back Brazilian forward Neymar to reinforce their frontline against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga this weekend.
It has been a good week for the Catalan club, who returned to the top of the table with a victory over Sevilla before setting up a mouthwatering Kings Cup final against bitter rivals Real Madrid after overcoming Real Sociedad on Wednesday.
The back-to-back wins are good news for a Barca side that have stumbled over the last month and a half, where they have only won three out of six matches in the league and crashed 3-2 at home to Valencia in their last fixture.
The signs are more positive now, however, with Lionel Messi returning to form with a double against Sevilla followed by another against Sociedad and they can now call on Neymar, who has not played since twisting his ankle in mid-January.
"There are three objectives for the season and one of those was to reach the (cup) final and then to try and win it," Barca coach Gerardo Martino told a news conference.
"This is another objective completed. The team are used to getting to finals and this is a reward for their effort and I accompany them in trying to achieve their aims," he added.
"I don`t want to talk about the final as it is so far off. It is a Clasico and that says it all. The objective was to get to the final and with Madrid already there, we couldn`t fail. We could not afford to miss out.
"It is difficult to say what state we will be in with so many matches to play in between. Who knows how we will be with injuries and form with two months to go?
"We need now to concentrate on the games we have ahead starting with this weekend."
After the Rayo game, Barca then play the first leg of an enticing Champions League last 16 tie against Manchester City next week and Sergio Busquets was in a positive mood ahead of the upcoming encounters.
"The team never tires of winning. We are playing well and looking strong in all competitions. We are in a good position," he told reporters.
There is an intriguing three-way battle at the top of La Liga with Real having clicked into gear, winning six out of the last seven league games with the only points dropped coming away to Athletic Bilbao at the start of the month.
Real also overcame Atletico Madrid with a clear 5-0 aggregate victory in the King`s Cup. The two defeats in the cup and another away to Almeria in between is the first time that Atletico under Diego Simeone have lost three consecutive games.
Real and Atletico are both behind Barcelona on goal difference and now take on Getafe and Valladolid respectively.
"Defeats are always painful whoever the rival is. We failed to reach a final that we wanted to play but we need to forget that now and concentrate on Valladolid," Atletico midfielder Mario Suarez said.
"We are not used to losing and it is in the bad moments that real men stand out and teams push forward. There is no point now looking back at the games that we have lost."