Casillas believes injury-hit Real can pressure Barça

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Real Madrid's uneven pursuit of Barcelona faces a severe examination today, one which is likely to be exacerbated by the vagaries of television scheduling. Should Barcelona defeat Osasuna in Pamplona late this afternoon - quite likely given Malaga scored six there last weekend - Real will be nine points adrift when they walk out at the Mestalla to play a revived Valencia this evening.

Real Madrid's uneven pursuit of Barcelona faces a severe examination today, one which is likely to be exacerbated by the vagaries of television scheduling. Should Barcelona defeat Osasuna in Pamplona late this afternoon - quite likely given Malaga scored six there last weekend - Real will be nine points adrift when they walk out at the Mestalla to play a revived Valencia this evening.

The defending champions have rallied impressively since Claudio Ranieri was dismissed, defeating Real Betis then drawing at Seville, and victory could take them third. Real are likely to be without Michael Owen and Raul, who have flu, Zinedine Zidane, who has a minor groin injury, and Iker Casillas who has a groin strain. All four are now focusing on being fit for Wednesday's Champions' League tie away to Juventus.

Nevertheless Casillas boldly declared his belief that Real can turn the pressure onto Barcelona who have drawn their last two games and are themselves without Ludovic Giuly and Henrik Larsson. "If we win in Valencia and Barcelona don't win in Pamplona then they are going to start panicking," said the goalkeeper. "We've got three away games coming up in the next four matches and if we win them our morale will be sky-high."

Real can draw inspiration from Italy where Juventus have let slip a commanding lead and are now level with Milan. The defending champions may move clear this weekend as Juve travel to the capital for a bitter meeting with Roma. Fabio Capello expects to receive a hostile reception after leaving Roma for Juventus in the summer, after years of promising not to take such a step.

Local officials in Rome have urged fans to keep calm and will even lay on an exhibition of dancing girls before tonight's game to try and take the aggression out of the atmosphere.

Francesco Totti, who was strongly critical of Capello's departure, returns from suspension to make up a three-pronged Roman attack. It should be an open game as Capello is likely to respond in kind. With Pavel Nedved still injured he is expected to repeat last week's successful experiment in which Alessandro Del Piero operated in a free role behind Marcelo Zalayeta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Milan travel to Atalanta, bottom of the table but improving, this afternoon

Another entertaining fixture is anticipated in Germany when Bayern Munich, who scored seven goals against Freiburg in the Cup in midweek, host Werder Bremen, the country's top scorers with 53 goals.

Werder, the defending champions, are third, four points behind Bayern, but have the best record in the Bundesliga since the winter break. Should Bayern drop points, second-placed Schalke 04 could take over at the top. Currently trailing Bayern on goal difference they visit lowly Bochum.

After a midweek of Cup shocks, leaders Lyon and challengers Lille both being dismissed by Second Division opposition, French football returns to Ligue 1 action with no one taking results for granted. With Lyon having travelled to struggling Caen last night, Marseille and Lille will both seek to survive tricky fixtures at St Etienne and Bastia.

Europe's five best players this week were...

1 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) Drove Chelsea to trophy

2 Alessandro del Piero (Juve) Brace answered critics

3 Sebastian Deisler (B Munich) Heart-warming return

4 Mauro Silva (Deportivo) Vintage show stifled Real

5 Dida (Milan) The platform for derby win

Europe's five best clubs this week were...

1 Milan Inflicted first defeat on Internazionale

2 Chelsea Cup comeback opened Mourinho account

3 Deportivo Real defeat echoed La Riazor glory days

4 Malaga Scored six on the road at Osasuna

5 B Munich Two wins, eight goals, another good week

Selected by The Independent's panel of European journalists

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