La Liga preview

Pique: No room for error against Malaga

January 19, 2012

Gerard Pique has warned his Barcelona team-mates they ''cannot afford to fail'' when they head to Malaga on Sunday.

Gerard Pique Barcelona
GettyImagesGerard Pique is aware of the importance of the game.

The Spain defender has taken little time to enjoy Barca's 2-1 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey as he knows the bigger prize will be to close Madrid's five-point advantage in the league.

Barca can cut it two, for a few hours at least, by beating Malaga before Madrid take on Athletic Bilbao at home later in the evening.

Pique said that although Barca had been able to ''impose their game'' on Madrid in the head-to-head meetings, ''the league is a completely different competition''. ''They are five points ahead of us. We must focus on Malaga. We cannot afford to fail,'' he said.

While Barca might need to forget their joy to focus on the weekend, Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero has told his team-mates to quickly put their sorrow to one side as they prepare to face a Bilbao side who sit fifth in the standings.

''We will have to change our mentality to win Sunday's match,'' he said. ''I'm sure (the Barca game) will have left us ready to face Athletico Bilbao.''

The gap between the top two and the rest of La Liga could grow this weekend with third-placed Valencia, already seven points adrift of Barca, face a challenging trip to face an Osasuna side battling to stay in the European places, as they sit sixth, one point above Sevilla, Malaga and Espanyol.

Should Valencia lose, Levante could move to within a point of them by beating rock-bottom Real Zaragoza.

Sevilla travel to Real Betis on Sunday, while Espanyol host struggling Granada on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid's bid to climb back into the race for Europe will be tested away to Real Sociedad on Saturday, while Racing Santander host Getafe and Mallorca travel to Rayo Vallecano.

The weekend's fixtures are completed on Monday night when Villarreal play Sporting Gijon, where a win for either could pull the victors out of the relegation zone.