Barcelona face their first game tonight since the Spanish champions' dressing room was rocked by news that the defender Eric Abidal would need immediate surgery on a tumour on his liver.
Pep Guardiola's side face Getafe at the Nou Camp having been buoyed by the news that Abidal's three-hour operation on Thursday was a success and the player will be allowed to leave hospital at the end of next week. The Barça coach said: "A lot of things have happened this week, winning this game will keep us in a good position; if we slip up it could end up costing us the league title. It comes before the 10-day international break and we are up against a side that we have struggled to beat in recent seasons."
With Carles Puyol still sidelined by tendinitis in his left knee, Guardiola has called up the defender Marc Fontas from the youth team. "He is ready for this," he said. "Hopefully Puyol will be back for the run-in because I only have Gabi Milito in the central defensive positions."
Orginally Abidal wanted to return in six weeks to play his part in Barcelona's quest for another treble. But he has been told he must recuperate for the rest of the season. "He is in very good spirits and very positive, which helps in these situations," said the midfielder Xavi Hernandez.
Real Madrid are five points behind Barcelona and face city rivals Atletico Madrid tonight in the Vicente Calderon. Quique Sanchez Flores's side have not won this fixture since 1999 but Jose Mourinho has warned his players against a potential slip ruining the two points gained on Barcelona last weekend.
He said: "There are no favourites in derby matches. We will give everything and let's see if it is enough. They have had a full week to prepare for the game and because they were knocked out of the Cup and of Europe earlier they have played fewer games than us this season. We have to offset that advantage with our greater quality and our greater motivation."
Mourinho has the French striker Karim Benzema on a run of seven goals in nine games. He said: "The credit for Benzema's transformation should go to him and to his team-mates. It is now a pleasure watching him play so well."