Barcelona, Spain (Sports Network) – Barcelona heads into Saturday’s contest against Deportivo level on points with title rivals Sevilla, and will try to put the pressure on the Seville club with three points.
The Catalan side has been plagued by inconsistent play throughout the season, but is coming off of a resounding 4-0 win over Recreativo and is hoping to build on that result. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting in November, but that was when Deportivo still looked like a team that would challenge for a spot Europe.
Since that time, the club has gone on a poor run of play that has seen them drop to 12th in the standings, and looking like a team that is destined for a middle-of-the-pack finish. Goals have been hard to come by for Deportivo, who have dropped two of their last three games, and things will not get any easier against a Barcelona side that can score goals with any team.
Making matters worse is the absence of midfielder Javier Arizmendi due to suspension. Winger Sergio Gonzalez will be sidelined with an injury.
Barca manager Frank Rijkaard will have to do without one his top midfielders as well, as Deco will miss the game after having surgery on his finger. Mexican defender Rafael Marquez will likely sit out to get rest after serving Mexico in international competition, while strikers Javier Saviola and Santi Ezquerro are also not expected to play.
With three crucial points on the table on Saturday, expect Rijkaard to put out as strong a lineup as possible.
In other action on Saturday, Villarreal travels to Real Betis, last-placed Real Sociedad hosts Levante and Valencia, just six points off the pace at the top, entertains Espanyol.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid continues to attempt to move into the top five with a home match against Mallorca, Real Zaragoza tries to retain its top-five standing with a win over Getafe and relegation-battling Gimnastic hosts Recreativo. Athletic Bilbao, one point from safety, hits the road to meet Racing, Real Madrid sits in third place, five points off the pace, and meets Celta Vigo while Sevilla rounds out the weekend on the road against Osasuna.