La Liga preview: Barca aim to extend gap at top

Barcelona will be hoping to bounce back from last week’s slip-up against Sevilla when they welcome 11th-placed Getafe to the Nou Camp on Saturday.

After the heights of last week’s 3-1 Champions League round-of-16 second-leg victory over Arsenal to book their place in the last eight of the tournament, Pep Guardiola’s men were held to a 1-1 draw at Sevilla, a result that saw Real Madrid able to cut their lead at the top of La Liga to five points.

Far more serious news than the matter of football arrived for the Catalans this week when it was revealed that French defender Eric Abidal – who played 90 minutes against Sevilla – had a tumour on his liver, and the 31-year-old had successful surgery on Thursday to remove the mass.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Real Madrid will aim to keep the pressure on Barcelona at the top of the table when they take on fierce rivals Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.

Jose Mourinho’s side booked their place in the last eight of the Champions League on Wednesday with a crushing 3-0 win over French side Lyon, while it has been a tough campaign so far for Atletico.

The reigning Europa League champions are languishing in eighth place on the La Liga table, prompting increasing speculation over the future of boss Quique Sanchez Flores.

Saturday’s other game sees 16th-placed Real Zaragoza travel to the Iberostar Estadi to do battle with ninth-placed Mallorca.

On Sunday, third-placed Valencia will aim to put aside the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Schalke – and Saturday’s 4-0 away drubbing at the hands of Real Zaragoza – behind them when they host Sevilla, who will be desperate for three points in their push for European football.

Fourth-placed Villarreal visit Athletic Bilbao, who are sixth, while fifth-placed Espanyol travel to bottom side Malaga.

Real Sociedad visit Racing Santander, who will be keen to put some more breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone, while second-bottom Hercules will be looking to move out of the drop zone when they welcome Osasuna.

Levante, who are in 12th position, travel to Deportivo La Coruna while Sporting Gijon welcome Almeria to the Estadio El Molinon in another relegation dogfight.