Barcelona turn attention to La Liga

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The Independent Online

Their Champions League dreams over, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will need to pick his players up quickly or risk seeing their hopes of Primera Division glory suffer a major setback as well as the Catalan giants make the tricky trip to Villarreal this weekend.

Barca won all six trophies available to them last year but they are in danger of ending 2010 empty-handed unless they can put last night's disappointing Champions League semi-final exit to Inter Milan behind them.

Currently, the reigning champions are a point ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division standings with four games remaining.

However, Barca look to have the much trickier task this weekend as, while Madrid look to make it 17 home wins out of 18 when they host mid-table Osasuna, Guardiola's men have to go to improving Villarreal.

Villarreal, who have lost just twice at home this season, have won five of their last six matches to climb up to sixth in the standings.

Barca winger Pedro Rodriguez said following his side's European exit: "We have to raise our heads, continue forward, because there is still the league.

"We now have a difficult game in the league and we have to win all the matches that remain. Tomorrow (Thursday) we will return to work at 100% because we cannot let the league escape."

If Barca lose at El Madrigal on Saturday, then Madrid will go two points clear at the summit with a win over Osasuna on Sunday - and in the process making Barca's better head-to-head record obsolete if they do not drop any more points.

Madrid defender Raul Albiol is well aware it will not be easy though, saying: "We know every game left for us will be tough because there is much at stake for every team.

"We have to win our four remaining games and wait and see. We don't depend on ourselves to win the title."

Even though there are only four rounds left there is still little decided in La Liga, although Xerez's fight to avoid the drop could be coming to an end.

Last weekend's 3-1 loss at Barcelona left them seven points adrift of safety and if they do not beat Andalusian rivals Almeria on Saturday then there may be no way back for Nestor Gorosito's men.

Xerez defender Jesus Mendoza said of this weekend's match: "We are both playing for a lot, but us a lot more. There's is nothing else for us but to win the game. Hopefully we will be able to save ourselves."

The other teams in the relegation zone have much more hope as Tenerife and Real Valladolid, who have both found some form at the right time, are only two points away from Real Zaragoza and Malaga above them.

Tenerife are at home to Racing Santander, Valladolid host seventh-placed Getafe, while Zaragoza go to Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga, who are without a win in seven matches, meet Sporting Gijon.

In the race for the European places, Valencia look set to limp over the line and claim one of the two remaining Champions League spots behind Barca and Madrid as they are currently six points ahead of fourth-placed Real Mallorca.

However, Unai Emery's side have not won away from the Mestalla since January and they are at Espanyol this weekend.

Behind Valencia there are five teams within six points of each other and all of whom will still be holding out hope of a top-four finish - Mallorca, Sevilla, Villarreal, Getafe and Athletic Bilbao.

Mallorca and Athletic meet at San Mames, while Sevilla are at home to Atletico Madrid in what will be a dress rehearsal for next month's Copa del Rey final.

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