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Thursday, January 15, 2009
Deportivo hoping to stop Barca juggernaut

Deportivo La Coruna are the next team in the firing line for Barcelona as Pep Guardiola's side look to take another step towards wrestling the Primera Liga title away from arch rivals Real Madrid.

Barca extended their advantage at the summit to 12 points after recording their 15th win in 16 league games with last weekend's hard-fought 3-2 triumph over bottom club Osasuna.

Barca also progressed through to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey in midweek after completing a 5-2 aggregate victory over Atletico Madrid, and will now face city rivals Espanyol.

Guardiola was excited at the prospect of a derby.

''It is a delight in itself to play against Espanyol. It's a derby and I prefer that. Espanyol are a good side and have some good homegrown players, and they deserve all our respect,'' he said.

Depor, who are currently seventh in the standings, will be eager to get back on track after losing three times to Sevilla in the last week, twice in the Copa del Rey to tumble out of that competition.

Madrid will be looking to continue their improved form when they take on Osasuna.

Successive wins over Valencia, Villarreal and Real Mallorca have lifted the capital club up to second place at the midway point of the season and in-form winger Arjen Robben is backing his side to make it eight league triumphs in 10 matches at the Bernabeu.

''They (Osasuna) are a good, strong team, but we are playing at home and are very confident,'' the Dutchman said.

While Madrid look to be getting back to their best under new coach Juande Ramos, their local rivals Atletico appear to be going in the opposite direction.

Wednesday's cup defeat to Barca was their fourth loss in four games in 2009, and with the Vicente Calderon crowd calling for coach Javier Aguirre's head during the last two home games, the Rojiblancos will probably be relieved to be away to Almeria this weekend.

Third-placed Sevilla will hope their hat-trick of wins over Depor will spark a successful run and they should have few problems on Saturday when they host a Numancia side that have lost eight of their nine away games this season.

Valencia, in fourth, appear to have a much tougher task though as they travel to upwardly mobile Athletic Bilbao.

The Basque side climbed up to 11th last Sunday with an impressive 3-2 win at Atletico, and that result took their unbeaten run to seven matches.

Villarreal's season is in danger of imploding following a run of one win in their last 11 competitive matches, but fortunately for them they face a side in even worse form this weekend with Real Mallorca the visitors to El Madrigal.

Second-bottom Mallorca have taken just three points from a possible 30 in their last 10 games, although they have progressed through to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey following a 4-2 aggregate win over Almeria.

Elsewhere, Getafe host Racing Santander, Real Betis are at Real Valladolid, Malaga meet third-bottom Espanyol and Sporting Gijon are away to Recreativo Huelva.

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