Barcelona look to bounce back
Primera Division leaders Barcelona will look to returning to winning ways following their shock Copa del Ray defeat to Real Betis when they welcome Racing Santander to the Nou Camp on Saturday.
The Catalan club still progressed to the semi-finals on aggregate but nearly paid the price for resting some of their top stars. Having won the first leg 5-0, Barcelona were defeated 3-1 in the second leg, bringing an end to their 28-game unbeaten run.
A 4-1 home win over Malaga last weekend on the same day title rivals Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw away to Almeria left Barcelona four points clear at the top of the table.
Barcelona's Brazilian defender Adriano believes they need to learn a lesson from the Betis defeat and put it to good use when they return to action against Racing.
He said: ''This game we have treat as a lesson. There was no lack of attitude or tension. They (Betis) scored two goals in the opening minutes. We're not used to having a team out to attack as they did. Betis is the best that I have faced in recent years.''
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will have to go into the match against Racing without injured Venezuelan forward Jeffren. He suffered the injury - a ruptured rectus femoris muscle in his left leg - in training today which is his 23rd birthday.
A scan has confirmed he will be out of action for five weeks, the club have confirmed. Jeffren has previously suffered two leg injuries this season and also a dislocated shoulder.
Barca are also without Dani Alves who is continuing his recovery from a muscle injury and Adriano has missed his compatriot. He said: ''It is very difficult to replace him because he does everything well.''
In the other Saturday games Sevilla, who are 10th, are at home to strugglers Levante and Valencia will hope to strengthen their Champions League qualification claims as they are at home to Malaga who are a point off the drop zone.
Real Madrid, who face city rivals Atletico in the Copa del Ray on Thursday, need to make sure Barcelona do not open up too big a gap in the league. They face a home fixture with Mallorca on Sunday by which time the Nou Camp club could be seven points ahead of them in the table.
Manager Jose Mourinho has had to deal with claims of a rift with general manager Jorge Valdano but there has been some good news on the long-term injury front over Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain.
Valdano has denied any rift, telling Marca: ''You have interpreted my words as a message to the coach and I have done very bad things when it has been something that was never my intention and never intended. Mourinho has to drive us to achieve the greatest possible gains to be better than last year and hope to continue in this vein.''
In the other Sunday fixtures bottom side Almeria face Osasuna who are four points above them, Getafe play Espanyol, Real Zaragoza take on Deportivo La Coruna, Sporting Gijon play Atletico Madrid and third-placed Villarreal are at home to Real Sociedad.
In the Monday night game Athletic Bilbao will look to push their claims for a Europa League spot against mid-table Hercules.