Friday, December 16, 2005

Barcelona seek club record victory

Last weekend's 2-1 victory over Sevilla equalled the league leader's 11-game run in the 1955-56 season, when they managed 10 domestic wins and one in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

Barcelona have scored 34 and only conceded four goals during their league and Champions League streak, leading midfielder Rafael Marquez to conclude the defending champions are "on a higher rung than last season".

"We've got to keep on piling up the points. If we can break records that's even better but we must always keep our minds on the next game, the most important one," Marquez said.

The defending champions look unlikely to be troubled by Cadiz, who have gained only two points from their last seven games and have slipped to 16th place.

Barcelona will be without injured midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Mark van Bommel, although the team will be boosted by Marquez and Deco returning from suspension.

Coach Frank Rijkaard's team heads the standings with 34 points, ahead of Osasuna on goal difference. Real Madrid are next with 28, two more than Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia and Celta Vigo.

Barcelona's closest challengers meet Sunday when Osasuna visits Madrid, for which coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro will make his home debut.

Lopez Caro, who became Madrid's fifth coach in the past 2 1/2 years when he replaced the fired Vanderlei Luxemburgo on Dec 4, guided his team to a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Malaga last weekend.

Madrid will again lack injured captain Raul Gonzalez and defender Jonathan Woodgate, while Zinedine Zidane is a doubt with an ankle problem.

Osasuna's Raul Garcia said despite their continuing upheaval, Madrid were "still one of the best teams in the world".

"It's going to be a hard game even though Real Madrid is going through a pretty bad patch. A lack of concentration in this type of clash can cost you the game," the teenage midfielder said.

This weekend's other 16th-round games are: Villarreal vs Getafe; Celta Vigo vs Deportivo La Coruna; Sevilla vs Real Sociedad; Espanyol vs Zaragoza; Athletic Bilbao vs Real Betis; Alaves vs Valencia; Mallorca vs Atletico Madrid; and Racing Santander vs Malaga.


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