Taking on Osasuna in Pamplona
can be as intimidating as the city's famous "running of the
bulls" and Real Madrid will be hoping to avoid the goring
Barcelona suffered there last month when they play the Navarrans
Real come into the match on a high after all but securing a
place in the Champions League semi-finals thanks to Tuesday's
3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia but have seen their advantage over
second-placed Barca in La Liga whittled down to six points from
10 in recent weeks.
One of only two teams to beat Barca in the league this
season, Osasuna are sixth, well placed to secure a berth in
Europe next season, and their tough-tackling, well-organised
side has only lost twice at home this term, to Racing Santander
and Atletico Madrid during a poor run in January.
"They [Real] have three points at stake that could decide
the league title, while we will simply go out there to win,"
Osasuna defender Miguel Flano told a news conference on
"It seems to me that Madrid are on good form, just like the
rest of the season," he added. "They are a solid team, who allow
themselves few errors and if they are given space they are
Victory for Jose Mourinho's side would stretch their lead
over Barca to nine points, at least for a few hours until the
Spanish, European and world champions host 11th-placed Athletic
Bilbao in Saturday's late kick-off.
The Basques, who play at Schalke 04 in a Europa League
quarter-final first leg on Thursday, have lost three and drawn
one of their last four La Liga games, while Barca are chasing an
eighth straight win since the 3-2 reverse at Osasuna.
With nine matches left, Real have 75 points, Barca have 69
and Valencia and Malaga are tied on 47 points in the third and
fourth Champions League qualification places respectively.
Qatar-owned Malaga, whose hefty outlay on players in recent
seasons appears at last to be bearing fruit, host 15th-placed
Real Betis on Saturday, while Valencia are at home to their city
rivals Levante on Sunday.
The season's surprise packages, Levante are fifth and a win
at the Mestalla would put them level on points with their much
wealthier neighbours and heap more pressure on Valencia coach
Unai Emery, assuming he is still in charge by then.
Emery's side have their Europa League last-eight clash at AZ
Alkmaar to negotiate on Thursday and with the board demanding
improvement and fans increasingly restless, a poor performance
in the Netherlands may enough to prompt a change of coach.
Bottom side Real Zaragoza, who have taken seven points from
their last three games, continue their bid to avoid the drop at
fellow strugglers Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
"We are ready to fight until our last drop of energy,"
forward Luis Garcia told a news conference on Tuesday.
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