Looking ahead to this weekend’s games in Spain.
Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o welcomes his former club Mallorca to the Nou Camp this weekend, while closest rivals Real Madrid are at home to Athletic Bilbao.
Eto’o, who was named CAF African Player of the Year on Tuesday, has seen Mallorca’s fortunes dip since his departure last summer. The islanders are languishing in 18th place and have won just twice in 2005.
Coach Hector Cuper, however, insisted his side were undaunted by the prospect of meeting the league leaders.
“In football, there is no place for the word ‘fear’. I want to see maximum effort from my players on Saturday because we’re facing the title, favorites.” he said.
Oleguer Presas, who is recovering from a hip injury, will not figure for Barcelona.
Just four points behind Barcelona, second-placed Real Madrid welcome Athletic Bilbao for what looks certain to be a fiercely contested match in the capital.
Madrid midfield player Santiago Solari said: “They are playing really well and can count on several quality players- some of whom have graduated from the lower categories but the base of the team is the same.”
Ronaldo is nursing an injured toe and remains doubtful while Roberto Carlos is suspended.
Another player sidelined by suspension is Aitor Ocio who misses high-flying Sevilla trip to Real Sociedad.
Sociedad midfielder Valeri Karpin paid tribute to Sunday’s visitors, saying: “Sevilla play football how it should be played. I would be delighted if we could always play like they do – that is what we go out on to the pitch for, to win.”
Fourth-placed Valencia, three points behind Sevilla on 38, visit Racing Santander, while Real Betis, one place further back on goal difference, host a Deportivo La Coruna side which welcomes back Mauro Silva, Fran Gonzalez and Cesar Martín. Centre-back Fabricio Coloccini is doubtful, however, with a throat infection.
Espanyol, also on 38 points, must beat struggling southerners Malaga to remain in a European qualifying space.
Seventh-placed Villarreal meet eighth-placed Atletico Madrid at the Madrigal, with Sebastian Battaglia serving a one-match ban for the hosts.
Rounding off the weekend’s action, Getafe play Osasuna, Levante meet Real Zaragoza and relegation battlers Albacete and Numancia face off at the Carlos Belmonte stadium.