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La Liga Weekend Preview

Real Madrid captain Raul concedes Barcelona will have to suffer a loss in form for his side to have a chance of overhauling them in the title race, but has warned the Catalan giants the reigning champions will not relinquish their crown without a fight .

Despite winning 11 and drawing one of their last 12 league games, Madrid still trail Barcelona by six points heading into the final 11 games and any slip-up could mean they end the campaign with no silverware having been already knocked out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

Raul knows that Barca hold most of the aces but the former Spain captain is adamant the Whites will push Pep Guardiola’s men as hard as they can and has not ruled out the possibility of a third straight championship success for the capital club.

“Our morale is good and it’s possible, although the distance is big. We must commit few errors, take it game by game and always pick up three points,” he said.

“But if Barcelona continue at the same level then there is nothing else left to do but congratulate them.

“We will never give up. Whilst there are points to play for we are going to fight, we will try to ensure the lead doesn’t grow. Every week anything can happen.”

Madrid’s first challenge is to try to overcome Almeria at the Bernabeu this weekend.

Almeria are under the guidance of former Madrid favourite Hugo Sanchez, who has not been slow in declaring his desire to one day sit on the bench of his old club.

However, that does not mean the Mexican is about to do the Whites any favours on Sunday.

“My feelings will have to take a back seat, work comes first. The aim is to win three points, which are important for us. I’d like to make history with Almeria and win at the Bernabeu for the first time,” said coach Sanchez, who won five successive league tiles during his seven years at Madrid.

The good news for Raul and Co is that Barca face a potentially tricky home match with the season’s surprise package Malaga this weekend.

Promoted Malaga have lost just two of their last 13 league games and would have been level on 45 points with fourth-placed Villarreal had they been able to hold onto their two-goal lead against Sevilla in last Sunday’s 2-2 draw.

Sevilla, in third, are at home to Real Valladolid in one of two games being played on Saturday night, the other seeing Villarreal play host to Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Bilbao.

Villarreal could find themselves outside the Champions League places by the end of the weekend if results go against them, as their 3-2 defeat at Atletico Madrid last Sunday means there are now three clubs within three points of them.

One of those is improving Atletico, who travel to Real Mallorca having taken seven points from their last three matches against Barca, Real and Villarreal.

Another is Malaga, while Deportivo, in seventh, are also just three points behind the Yellow Submarine as they meet Real Betis this weekend.

Villarreal do not have much to be worried about from local rivals Valencia though, with the 2002 and 2004 champions in all sorts of trouble.

Aside from their financial problems, Valencia have failed to win any of their last eight competitive matches and have fallen down to eighth ahead of their trip to Racing Santander.

Elsewhere, bottom club Espanyol face a crucial trip to 18th-placed Osasuna, while freefalling Getafe will attempt to record only their second win in 13 matches when they face Recreativo Huelva, and Numancia meet Sporting Gijon.

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