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La Liga Weekend Preview

Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez wants more of the same as his side return to league action against Recreativo Huelva this weekend in buoyant mood following their Champions League demolition of Bayern Munich.

Barca thumped Bayern 4-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final to remain firmly on course for the treble, having already reached the Copa del Rey final and boasting a six-point lead at the top of La Liga.

All four goals against Bayern came in the first half – the sixth time Barca have managed such a feat this season – and with Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry again all getting on the scoresheet, the prolific trio are closing in on the 100-goal mark between them this term.

Barca travel to Germany for the second leg next week. But before that, they welcome third-bottom Recre to the Nou Camp on Saturday as Pep Guardiola’s in-form side go in search of a seventh successive win in all competitions.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where we are and, for this reason, we cannot relax,” said Marquez. “Every game is important, and we have to continue with the same mentality.”

Hoping to ensure Barca work hard for the chance to win their first Primera Division title since 2006 are second-placed Real Madrid, who are in formidable form after taking 40 points from the last 42 possible.

This weekend Juande Ramos’ men host Real Valladolid, a side Madrid lost 1-0 to earlier in the season but have beaten 32 times in 38 meetings at the Bernabeu down the years.

Sevilla have little hope of catching either of the top two over the final nine games, because they are currently nine points adrift of Madrid.

However, by the same taken they look assured of finishing third – because they are also nine points ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal heading into their home match with lowly Getafe on Sunday.

Villarreal play Malaga this weekend, but Sevilla’s biggest threat may be a Valencia side who look to be back on track following a dismal start to 2009.

Not only have Los Che won their last two games to move to within two points of Villarreal, but they have gained a much-needed cash injection – and star duo David Villa and David Silva this week both declared their intentions to fulfil long-term contracts with the Mestalla outfit.

Valencia travel to inconsistent Sporting Gijon, who have still to draw a league game this season.

Atletico Madrid’s hopes of a top-four finish have hit the skids following successive defeats against Real Mallorca and Osasuna, and they are now five points behind Villarreal and face a potentially crucial trip to fellow European hopefuls Deportivo La Coruna this weekend.

Atletico and Depor are two of three clubs locked on 43 points, the other being Malaga.

There is also a hugely important clash at the foot of the table, with bottom two Espanyol and Numancia doing battle at Los Pajaritos.

Elsewhere this weekend, Real Mallorca face Almeria; Osasuna meet Atletico Bilbao, and Real Betis travel to Racing Santander.

That final match will see Betis under the guidance of new coach Jose Maria Nogues, the former B team boss who took over the reins this week following the sacking of Paco Chaparro.

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