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No La Liga let up for Madrid, Barca as strike looms

China Daily | Updated: 2015-05-09 08:33

Real Madrid and Barcelona can't afford a Champions League hangover as their La Liga title hopes will again be on the line on Saturday when they host Valencia and Real Sociedad respectively.

However, the title race has been over-shadowed by the threat of a possible shutdown of the league season next weekend due to an ongoing dispute between the Spanish Football Federation, the players' union and the league over the distribution of funds from a new law passed allowing the centralized selling of television rights.

Senior players from both Real and Barca, including club captains Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez, were present at amedia conference on Thursday that backed the players' union stance unless a solution is found before next weekend.

Madrid trails Barca by two points at the top of the standing with three games to play and faces the significantly tougher task this weekend against a Valencia side looking to seal its place in next season's Champions League with a fourth-place finish.

Valencia ended the European champion's 22-game winning streak when the sides met back in January and Madrid could also pay for its efforts in losing 2-1 to Juventus in the first-leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday.

"It has an influence, but they have great players and a very good technical staff that knows how to manage the players," Valencia striker Paco Alcacer said on Thursday.

"However, we can only look after ourselves. It is important that Valencia is in the Champions League and that is all we are focusing on.

"It is clear we can beat Madrid. We go there with the mentality that we can take the three points and keep going towards our objectives."

Madrid could have striker Karim Benzema back as he returned to training on Thursday after missing six games due to a knee injury.

Valencia will be without former Madrid forward Rodrigo through suspension, but Jose Luis Gaya is expected to start despite continued interest from Real in signing him at the end of the season.

Barca could move five points clear at the top before Madrid kicks off at Bernabeu as it hosts David Moyes's Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

A 1-0 defeat to Sociedad in January proved to be the turning point in Barca's season as coach Luis Enrique controversially left Lionel Messi and Neymar on the bench after they arrived back from their Christmas break in South America later than the rest of their teammates.

Bothmen were on target as the Catalans all but booked their place in the Champions League final with a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday to register their 27th win in 29 games since that reverse in San Sebastian to remain on course for a treble.

"It was our objective since the start of the season and we are getting closer all the time," said Neymar. "In La Liga we have a very difficult game this weekend and we need to fight until the end."

Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 05/09/2015 page8)

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