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Domestic focus for Spanish rivals

Published: Friday 11 March 2005, 13.33CET
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF have no continental distractions as the top two prepare for the run-in.

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Published: Friday 11 March 2005, 13.33CET

Domestic focus for Spanish rivals

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF have no continental distractions as the top two prepare for the run-in.
By Andy Hall

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF have nothing to distract them from the Spanish title race after both clubs exited the UEFA Champions League in midweek.

European upset
Barcelona, who bowed out against Chelsea FC on Tuesday, lead the Primera División with 62 points from 27 games. Madrid, defeated by Juventus FC the following night, are eight points adrift. With third-placed RCD Espanyol far off the pace, the championship run-in looks to have only two riders.

Athletic visit
The visitors to the Camp Nou on Saturday are another team nursing a European hangover, Athletic Club Bilbao, following their UEFA Cup elimination by FK Austria Wien. Athletic, in tenth position, should have left-back Asier Del Horno fit after a stomach bug, but Javier Casas and Ander Murillo remain doubtful with hamstring and ankle problems respectively. For Barça, Rafael Márquez is still out and Deco is struggling with a flu bug. Real Betis Balompié and Málaga CF meet at the Rosaleda in the evening's other tie.

Beckham suspended
Madrid cross town a day later to visit lowly Getafe CF. David Beckham is suspended while Santiago Solari has a knee injury and medical staff will delay a decision on his availability. Right-back Míchel Salgado, meanwhile, continues his recovery from a knee ligament sprain, and defender Álvaro Rivas is banned for the hosts.

Quartet return
Third play fourth as Espanyol travel to Villarreal CF with a one-point advantage. Raúl Tamudo, Iván de la Peña and Mauricio Pochettino all return from injury for the visitors while Daniel Jarque is back from suspension. Villarreal's fellow UEFA Cup contenders, Sevilla FC and Real Zaragoza, square up on Sunday. The Andalusians are shorn of Sergio Ramos and Jordi López; Zaragoza miss Álvaro Maior.

Strugglers meet
Valencia CF, in fifth, go to a Club Atlético de Madrid side hoping to improve on eighth spot. RC Deportivo La Coruña make the trip to struggling Albacete Balompié, and Levante UD take on CA Osasuna. Encounters involving the bottom clubs promise to be tense affairs - Real Racing Club Santander play RCD Mallorca while Real Sociedad de Fútbol entertain rock-bottom CD Numancia.

Last updated: 12/03/05 20.38CET

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