Barcelona bid to extend Liga lead before Madrid derby

Leaders Barcelona face Leganes in the south of the Spanish capital before Atletico Madrid host rivals Real Madrid in a clash which could leave one side up to 11 points adrift in the title race.

Barcelona (dpa) - All eyes turn to the Spanish capital on Saturday as La Liga leaders Barcelona travel to minnows Leganes while across the city Atletico Madrid host rivals Real Madrid.

If Barcelona win at Butarque in the afternoon they move on to 34 points, leaving both Real and Atletico, third and fourth with 23 points each, under pressure to beat the other to stay in the title race.
Lionel Messi's spectacular form, with 11 goals in 11 league games, has helped propel Barcelona to the top of the table while other star forwards at each of Spain’s biggest three clubs flounder.
Luis Suarez has gone five matches without a goal in all competitions for Barcelona, but thanks to Messi’s contributions, his inaccuracy in front of goal has not cost the Catalans.
However Cristiano Ronaldo just has one league goal this season for Madrid, while Karim Benzema has also misfired and Gareth Bale has been hit by repeated injuries.
Meanwhile Antoine Griezmann is out of form for Atletico, last scoring in the Spanish top flight against Sevilla on September 23.
The Frenchman has gone seven consecutive games without scoring in all competitions, his worst run while at Atletico Madrid.
Coach Diego Simeone believes Atletico’s talisman’s form will change soon and it will help his team challenge for silverware.
"Griezmann is a great player on our team and I think about the positive things," said Simeone.
"We have not lost in 11 games. If we have 23 points and Griezmann has not scored then it is a good sign as his goals are still to come."
Atletico have a clean bill of health for the derby, while champions Real Madrid will be missing Bale and Mateo Kovacic, and goalkeeper Keylor Navas is a doubt due to a thigh injury.
Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who scored two penalties for Spain on Tuesday against Russia in an international friendly, is looking forward to the game.
"Important games are coming, but that's the beauty of football because you put it all on the line," said Ramos.
"La Liga is getting very interesting, we have a minimal margin for error because we have let some points go."
Leganes, ninth, will not make it easy for Barcelona at the rowdy Butarque, trying to capitalise on the Catalans’ injury problems.
As well as long-term absentees Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha Alcantara, Andre Gomes, Sergi Roberto and Javier Mascherano are out.
Defenders Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are walking on a tightrope too, both at risk of suspension for the clash with second-placed Valencia on November 26 if they receive another yellow card.
Marcelino's Los Che are flying high but must cope without striker Simone Zaza for the trip to Espanyol on Sunday, with the Italian suffering from a knee problem.
Rodrigo and winger Goncalo Guedes will be the men to watch in Zaza’s stead as Valencia bid to keep in touch with Barcelona and stay ahead of the chasing pack.
The weekend’s other games are Girona v Real Sociedad, Getafe v Alaves, Sevilla v Celta Vigo, Malaga v Deportivo La Coruna, Las Palmas v Levante, Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal, Eibar v Real Betis.


Thursday, November 16th 2017
By Rik Sharma,

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