MADRID, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Real Zaragoza have the chance to strengthen their claim for a Champions League place next year when they visit Real Madrid in the Primera Liga on Sunday.
Victor Fernandez's side have played some of the league's most attractive football this season, and in beating leaders Sevilla 2-1 last weekend, proved they are capable of mixing it with the big boys.
That result moved them up to fourth in the standings, just two points adrift of third-placed Real.
Although a little inconsistent, on their day they are a match for any side as they showed with a scintillating performance against Sevilla.
Argentine playmakers Andres D'Alessandro and Pablo Aimar have an eye for the final ball, Brazilian Ewerthon has frightening pace, and in Argentine striker Diego Milito they have the league's second highest scorer with 12 so far.
Real know what it is like to catch Zaragoza on a good day. Last season they suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat in the King's Cup semi-final first leg, when Milito bagged four.
Real, who visit Real Betis in the Cup on Thursday, come into the game distracted by off-field problems.
The futures of Ronaldo, Antonio Cassano and David Beckham have dominated the headlines, while three defeats in four matches forced a meeting between coach Fabio Capello, and the club's president and sporting director to seek solutions.
'When I arrived here I said we would have to fight for the shirt and I didn't see that in the last two games,' Capello said.
'We will implement important measures which you will see in the future.'
Whether that means a change in the starting XI remains to be seen, though the temptation to incorporate young new signings Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago is there.
Capello is without defenders Michel Salgado and Sergio Ramos who are suspended, while Marcelo and Guti are injured.
Zaragoza will be without Uruguayan defender Carlos Diogo who serves the first game of his five-match ban for brawling with Sevilla's Luis Fabiano last weekend.
Leaders Sevilla will be looking to bounce back from their reverse at Zaragoza when they host a Real Mallorca side in freefall on Sunday.
The islanders have lost their last five games in all competitions, conceding 13 goals along the way, and lie 17th in the table.
Sevilla will be without Brazilian striker Fabiano who serves the first game of his five-match ban for the fight with Diogo.
Two points behind them, and with a game in hand, Barcelona will have midfielder Deco and playmaker Ronaldinho back in contention after serving suspensions last weekend, and being rested for the midweek Cup match.
Frank Rijkaard's side, who struggled to a 1-1 draw away to Getafe last weekend, have a city derby away to 10th-placed Espanyol on Saturday.
'There may be some distance between us in the league but derbies are heated affairs that level things out, and that distance will be forgotten,' Espanyol coach Ernesto Valverde said.