Sevilla aim to send message to rest of La Liga

November 9, 2006

MADRID, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Sevilla are determined to set the pace at the top of the Primera Liga after replacing champions Barcelona as leaders last weekend.

The UEFA Cup holders visit 14th-placed Racing Santander on Sunday on the back of three straight league wins, and have been tipped by Barca coach Frank Rijkaard this week as the team to beat in Spain.

'The country is starting to take notice of what we have achieved and we have won the respect of other clubs,' said Sevilla coach Juande Ramos.

'We need to maintain the same level of commitment and self-belief, and if we do we have it in our own hands to achieve something important.'

That something would be to add the club's second league title to the UEFA and European Super Cups collected in recent months. Sevilla's only previous league title was won 50 years ago in 1946.

Ramos's side, who are the league's second highest scorers behind Barca and Real Zaragoza, saw Uruguayan striker Ernesto Chevanton play his first minutes for the club as he debuted in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Gimnastica Segoviana in the King's Cup on Wednesday, after recovering from a back injury.

But they have an injury doubt over livewire winger Jesus Navas who took a knock to his knee in the same game.

Racing beat Valencia two weeks ago and are unbeaten in six.

Barcelona are just a point off the leaders but face a tough time in the Nou Camp on Sunday from the team immediately below them in the table, in-form Zaragaza.

Victor Fernandez's side have won four on the trot and with joint top scorer in the league Argentine striker Diego Milito up front are a thorny proposition for anyone.

Barca welcome back striker Eidur Gudjohnsen from injury, though Javier Saviola staked his claim for another start with two goals in the 4-0 King's Cup win over Badalona on Wednesday night.

Fourth-placed Real Madrid and fifth-placed Valencia are both four points adrift of Sevilla and keen to make up lost ground.

Real will want to bounce back quickly from their 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo when they travel to face Osasuna, while Valencia are at home to struggling Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

In the lower half of the table the clash between bottom club Real Sociedad and Espanyol in San Sebastian will see pressure mounting on either club's coach with a defeat.

Sociedad's new coach Miguel Angel Lotina, who won the King's Cup with Espanyol last season, has presided over two league defeats and a Cup exit since stepping in two weeks ago.

Ernesto Valverde's Espanyol, who are 15th, were knocked out of the Cup by third division Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday prompting calls from disgruntled fans for him to go.