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La Liga Weekend Preview

Three days after winning the Copa del Rey at Mestalla Stadium, Real Madrid returns to face Valencia in a crucial match if it wants to keep alive its slim hopes of catching Barcelona.

Barcelona has an eight-point lead over Real, with only six games to go, and plays relegation threatened Osasuna at the Camp Nou.

It will be interesting to see what team Real coach Jose Mourinho puts out against Valencia. Real Madrid and Barcelona renew their rivalry in the Champions League next week and I would not be surprised to see Madrid play basically its second team against Valencia.

Such a move will make Valencia happy as a win will ensure that they are playing Champions League football next season.

Barcelona on the other hand can put out a reserve team against Osasuna and still win. Osasuna has lost 12 of its 16 away games this season, and the match offers an excellent opportunity for Barcelona to rediscover its goal scoring form.

Also on Saturday, Real Sociedad visits fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in a Basque Country derby, while sixth-place Sevilla hosts fourth-place Villarreal on Sunday in a critical game for the Andalusian club’s chances of playing in Europe next season.

After a strong first half of the season, the promoted Sociedad could be in danger of falling back into the second division if it cannot earn points at San Mames stadium.

Sevilla hasn’t won in two weeks and will try to take advantage of a Villarreal side that has slumped in the league recently as it concentrates on the Europa League, where it has reached the semifinals. But a loss for Gregorio Manzano’s team could see it slide out of European positions with Atletico Madrid even on points and Espanyol just one point behind.

Also on Sunday, it’s: Mallorca vs. Getafe, Sporting Gijon vs. Espanyol, Hercules vs. Deportivo La Coruna, Racing Santander vs. Malaga, and Atletico vs. Levante.

On Monday, last-place Almeria plays fellow drop-zone side Zaragoza.