Barcelona looks to regain form against Mallorca

Updated: 25 February 2011 00:15 IST

Barcelona will be hoping to overcome its recent dip in form at Mallorca on Saturday to protect its five-point lead over Real Madrid in the Spanish league.

Barcelona looks to regain form against Mallorca

Madrid:

Barcelona will be hoping to overcome its recent dip in form at Mallorca on Saturday to protect its five-point lead over Real Madrid in the Spanish league.

Barcelona, the two-time defending champions, began the month by setting a league record of 16 straight wins but have since stumbled in a 2-1 Champions League loss at Arsenal and were unconvincing in a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Barcelona will be without midfielder Xavi Hernandez, defenders Carles Puyol and Daniel Alves and goalkeeper Victor Valdes for the match at Iberostar Stadium.

But Lionel Messi, the FIFA World Player of the Year who leads the league with 25 goals, returned to training Thursday after a few days working alone in the gym. Jefferon Suarez also trained with the squad more than a month after being sidelined by a leg injury.

"Some key players are missing on the Barcelona squad, and those players can obviously make a difference. We see a chance to get a good result," Mallorca midfielder Jonathan de Guzman told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We're preparing for this like every other game. But we've had good results in the past against these top teams, so we go into the game with a lot of confidence."

Arsenal and Bilbao both played better after going down 1-0 in matches Barcelona largely controlled. Since coach Pep Guardiola took over in 2008, Barcelona has always struggled in February, having never won a Champions League game in that month and regularly dropping points in the league.

De Guzman said Mallorca's chase for a Europa League spot could be affected by dropping any points. But the Canadian-born Dutch player also doesn't believe Barcelona will be dwelling on losing at Arsenal.

"I don't think they'll take that along with them but it was a hard loss for them, for sure," De Guzman said. "Barcelona is Barcelona, there not the Champions League winners and don't have World Cup champions for nothing. Right now they're not in their best form and hopefully we can take advantage of that."

Mallorca, 11th in the standings, has a single victory in its past six games. The team has won seven of 12 home games with two draws, including against Madrid.

Madrid plays at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday having won three straight league matches. The team also drew 1-1 at Lyon in the Champions League on Tuesday. Karim Benzema scored and showed improved form that could lead to coach Jose Mourinho counting on him down the final stretch of the season.

"He's back," Zinedine Zidane said of Benzema. "He's in good form."

Madrid is without midfielder Sami Khedira due to a leg injury, while Deportivo is expected to play Mexico forward Andres Guardado for the first time since December.

Deportivo is 13th and three points above the drop places, and comes into the match after Daniel Aranzubia headed in a 95th-minute equalizer against Almeria on Sunday to become the first goalkeeper to score from open play in league history.

Third-place Valencia, 17 points behind Barcelona, plays Sunday at Athletic Bilbao, which has lost two straight matches.

Villarreal trails Valencia by two points and is winless in three ahead of Sunday's match at Racing Santander, which has won both games since Marcelino Garcia Toral took over as coach.

Atletico Madrid should have both Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Uruguay forward Diego Forlan available for Saturday's game against Sevilla, which was knocked out of the Europa League on Wednesday.

Both teams won titles last season but are chasing Europa League qualifying as they face double-digit deficits to Villarreal and the last automatic qualifying spot into the Champions League. Both arrive on the back of league wins, however Sevilla has won only 14 of its 71 visits to the Vicente Calderon - but two of those have come in the last five seasons.

Getafe celebrates its 65th anniversary Sunday at Hercules and looking to keep pace with the Europa League spots. Paraguay striker Nelson Valdez is a game-time decision for Hercules.

Espanyol, which has lost four straight ahead of Sunday's game against Real Sociedad, is sixth and in the last European place with 37 points, one back of Bilbao and three ahead of Sevilla.

"The only bill I have left which is outstanding (against Espanyol) is a victory," said Sociedad striker Raul Tamudo, who returns to Espanyol for the first time since leaving the club last offseason. The former Spain striker started his career with the Barcelona-based club 15 years ago.

In the other 25th round of games, it's: Sporting Gijon vs. Zaragoza, Levante vs. Osasuna and Malaga vs. Almeria.

Topics : Football Sevilla Real Sociedad Barcelona Real Madrid Valencia Lionel Andres Messi
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