Barcelona on course for record

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The Independent Online

Barcelona can extend their lead at the top of La Liga to 12 points this evening with a win at struggling Albacete, heaping further pressure on rivals Real Madrid ahead of their game with Real Sociedad tomorrow.

Barcelona can extend their lead at the top of La Liga to 12 points this evening with a win at struggling Albacete, heaping further pressure on rivals Real Madrid ahead of their game with Real Sociedad tomorrow.

Barça's injury list continues to grow. Full-back Juliano Belletti sustained an ankle injury in Tuesday's 2-0 Champions' League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk. Winger Ludovic Giuly is doubtful with a thigh problem and goalkeeper Victor Valdes is suffering from flu. But Frank Rijkaard's side, on course for a record points tally in the Spanish league after 11 wins and only one defeat in 14 games, should still be too good for their hosts, who have won only three times this season and lie 17th of 20.

Real Madrid, who trail Barcelona by nine points, can at least now focus all their attention on the league, having been distracted until Wednesday by a stuttering Champions' League campaign.

With second-stage qualification assured after a 3-0 win over Roma, they will be in no mood to allow Real Sociedad to defeat them in a thus far below-par league campaign. Real's coach, Mariano Garcia Remon, said yesterday that he believes Barça will struggle to maintain their impressive form. "I think it will be impossible for them to keep up this pace," he said. "We have to keep on working and just wait for them to slip up." Real Sociedad have recovered their confidence after a poor start to the season and ended Betis's 10-match unbeaten run with a 1-0 win last week. Their last visit to the Bernabeu ended in a 4-1 win at the tail end of last season, a fact sure to motivate both sides.

In Italy, where Juventus top Serie A by four points from Milan, the leaders travel to struggling Bologna tomorrow while Milan host Fiorentina at the San Siro. Internazionale, Italy's third representatives in the next stage of the Champions' League, could climb to fourth with a win over second-bottom Siena.

¿ Lazio must play their next European home game behind closed doors as punishment for their supporters' racist behaviour during the match against Partizan Belgrade last month. Real Madrid have been fined €9,789 (£6,769) for racist chanting during the Champions' League match with Bayer Leverkusen.

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