Larsson pressed into service for Barça

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The Independent Online

Barcelona's strength in depth will be on view tomorrow as La Liga leaders host Alaves. Barça will be without Samuel Eto'o, who has scored 18 goals in 19 games, because he is with Cameroon at the African Nations' Cup. Into the breach comes Henrik Larsson, to the disappointment of those clubs who had hoped to sign the Swede during the transfer window.

Few expect Alaves to deny Barcelona an 18th successive victory but they did win at Deportivo La Coruña last weekend in new coach Juan Carlos Oliva's first match in charge.

"I'm in heaven," said Oliva. "The important thing is that we have started to change. The three points will give us confidence and credibility."

Real Madrid are expected to beat Cadiz at home tonight but the weekend's other big match, the Basque derby, is harder to call. Athletic Bilbao, joint bottom with Alaves, need to repeat their opening day win over Real Sociedad, who are also struggling.

Julio Cruz is another striker hoping to benefit from the African Nations' Cup. "The Gardener", needing games to keep his place in the Argentina World Cup squad, replaces Nigeria's Obafemi Martins for Internazionale. Having cut Juventus' lead to eight points Inter hope to beat Palermo at home tonight.

Juventus play Empoli while third-placed Milan host Siena. Both should win.

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