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Barcelona Still Confident

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets insists there is no cause for the Catalan giants to panic despite the possibility of Real Madrid trimming the difference between the two sides to seven points this weekend.

Barca boasted a massive 12-point advantage prior to last weekend’s games but their 2-2 draw at Real Betis combined with Madrid’s 4-0 thumping of Sporting Gijon means that gap has been trimmed slightly, and Juande Ramos’ side will be keen to make further in-roads on Saturday night.

However, Busquets said: “It’s a considerable distance and we don’t have to be obsessed about it. However, neither can we relax or underestimate them.”

Madrid, who have won their last eight games and conceded just one goal in the process, host an improving Betis at the Bernabeu while Barca face a potentially tricky derby against Espanyol.

On paper that match looks a home banker with Pep Guardiola’s side having taken 32 from a possible 36 at the Nou Camp this campaign and Espanyol having slumped to the bottom of the standings after failing to win a league match since November 2.

Barca also won the previous meeting between the two sides and recently knocked their neighbours out of the Copa del Rey, but Busquets knows it is unlikely to be straightforward this weekend, saying: “They will come here determined to get out of the relegation zone.”

It has not been all plain sailing at the Nou Camp this week either, with outspoken striker Samuel Eto’o again hitting the headlines with his comments about Real Mallorca, Barcelona and hints about his future.

The treble chasers have also lost influential midfielder Andres Iniesta to an injury that is set to sideline him for two weeks, and Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino believes that is major blow for his counterpart Guardiola.

“As an ex-footballer, I never like to see players suffer injuries, because I know what goes through their heads. Clearly Iniesta is a great player and he’ll be a big loss to Barcelona on Saturday,” Pochettino said.

Both Barca and Madrid also have the potential distraction of the Champions League returning next week, although Whites striker Javier Saviola insists his side will not be looking too far ahead.

“To think about Liverpool over Betis would be the worst thing we could do,” said the Argentinian.

All four of Spain’s Champions League sides are in action on Saturday night, with Atletico Madrid making the tough trip to third-placed Sevilla and Villarreal hosting Sporting Gijon.

The remaining games are on Sunday when Deportivo La Coruna host Valencia in a battle between two out-of-sorts sides, Real Mallorca meet Racing Santander and in-form Malaga travel to Real Valladolid with the possibility of breaking into the Champions league spots.

Another form side, Athletic Bilbao, are at Getafe, while the remaining two games see Almeria and Numancia take on regional rivals Recreativo Huelva and Osasuna, respectively.

Numancia will be under the guidance of former sporting director Jose Rojo Martin, who was placed in charge until the end of the season following Tuesday’s dismissal of Sergio Kresic after just seven months in charge.