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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 14 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Apr 14, 2011

Spain gears up for El Clasico

Real Madrid and Barcelona will embark upon an intriguing four-game showdown on Saturday as the season approaches its climax.

The two sides will meet in the Primera Division this weekend with the title effectively at stake, before clashing again in the Copa Del Rey final next Wednesday and then a two-legged Champions League semi-final.

Pep Guardiola's men boast an impressive recent record in El Clasico matches, with the current coach having won all five of his encounters with Madrid - the last of them a stunning 5-0 demolition job at the Camp Nou in November which ended Jose Mourinho's unbeaten start.

An extension of that record at the Bernabeu this weekend would all but secure the title with Madrid currently trailing the leaders by eight points.

Guardiola has urged his players to enjoy what lies ahead during the remaining weeks of the season as they chase a Treble, and central defender Gerard Pique intends to do just that.

He told AS: "What remains is a celebration of football. We have to enjoy our remaining matches because you can say we have done our homework and we are where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season.

"We are lucky enough to play the decisive matches of the year and be able to fulfil our dreams to get the titles."

Mourinho has been boosted in recent weeks by the return from injury of Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Kaka, while Guardiola, who will be without suspended midfielder Javier Mascherano at the weekend, has seen his squad depleted by fitness problems which have cost him the services of defenders Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal in particular.

Behind the top two, third-placed Valencia will look to strengthen their claims on Champions League qualification when they travel to bottom-of-the table Almeria.

The hosts head into the game on the back of three successive defeats, the last of them 3-1 at the hands of Barca, while the visitors hammered Villarreal, the team pressing them hardest for a top-three finish, 5-0 last time out.

Fifth-placed Sevilla will defend a four-game unbeaten run, which started with a home draw with Barca, when they travel to Getafe, with relegation-threatened Malaga's home clash with Mallorca completing Saturday's fixture list.

Sunday's action see sixth-placed Atletico Madrid head for Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao in seventh visit Osasuna, while Deportivo La Coruna welcome Racing Santander, Levante play host to Hercules and Sporting Gijon travel to Real Sociedad.

The following evening, Villarreal will look to bounce back from their drubbing at Valencia as they entertain lowly Real Zaragoza, who are fighting to retain their top-flight status.

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