MADRID, April 29, 2011 (AFP) - Barcelona look to build on their morale-boosting 2-0 Champions League semi-final win over rivals Real Madrid by moving a step closer to their third consecutive league title with victory at promoted Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Two goals from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona put one foot in the Champions League final with the triumph over Madrid on Wednesday and now the focus returns to the league where the champions need just seven points from the remaining five games to retain their crown.
Barcelona lie eight points ahead of Real at the summit on 88 points and are on course to break the 100 points barrier and better the best ever league tally of 99 points, which they recorded last season.
|AFP - Real Madrid's Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho (C) speaks with Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (R) next to Barcelona's captain Carles Puyol (L) during the Champions League semi-final first leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona on April 27, 2011 . Barcelona won 0-2.|
"We are two wins and a draw away from being crowned league champions. After that we will think about the second semi-final (against Real Madrid) and getting to Wembley (for the final)." said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
Real have it all to do in the semi final second leg at Camp Nou next Tuesday, but need to put the European disappointment behind them and focus on collecting three points at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday.
Real coach Jose Mourinho cut an angry figure after watching Pepe sent off on the hour mark in the painful defeat to foes Barcelona and the rivalry between the two sides cranked up a notch, with the Portuguese coach accusing Barcelona of receiving favouritism from referees and bemoaning the fact that his sides always ended up with ten men.
It was a long tirade from Mourinho in the post match press conference and he now faces disciplinary action for his controversial comments towards Barcelona and several high profile referees.
"We are playing a man's game and every time you play against Barcelona and you touch them, they go to the ground and cry like babies," said Real striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
In the wake of a third 'El Clasico' in 12 days little has been said about Saturday's match against Zaragoza who are fighting for their lives, one point above the relegation zone, and will hope Madrid have a European hangover.
Mourinho may choose to ring the changes with Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka and Karim Benzema all unused substitutes against Barcelona, while Ricardo Carvalho is back after missing Wednesday's match through suspension.
Barcelona may also rest stars with the return leg of the Champions League in mind with Messi, who has an incredible 52 goals this season with 31 in the league, likely to be given a break after picking up a knock in the Madrid game.
Valencia are a distant third, lying 17 points behind Real Madrid, and hope to put last weekend's 6-3 home drubbing by Real behind them with a win at strugglers Osasuna on Sunday.
Valencia are favourites to seal third, and the automatic Champions League qualification it brings, with Villarreal six points behind in fourth.
Osasuna will be pumped for the Valencia visit, however, as they occupy the final relegation place with games running out.
On Sunday Villarreal host a Getafe side that have been in the news with the Royal Emirates Group clinching a takeover of the club and talking of the Champions League, but for now the Madrid-based club are battling to stay in the division, lying two points above the bottom three.
Elsewhere a return of 10 points from 12 has helped Atletico Madrid challenge for a European spot and the capital side travel to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday looking to move into the top six.
Argentine forward Sergio "Kun: Aguero has scored eight goals in his last six league games to push Atletico into contention and the club are level on points with sixth-placed Sevilla who travel to bottom side Almeria on Sunday.
Almeria look doomed lying 10 points from safety with just five games left to play.
Real Madrid v Real Zaragoza (1600 GMT), Real Sociedad v Barcelona (1800 GMT), Deportivo La Coruna v Atletico Madrid (2000 GMT)
Sunday - all 1500 GMT unless stated
Levante v Sporting Gijon, Malaga v Hercules, Almeria v Sevilla, Racing Santander v Real Mallorca, Villarreal v Getafe (1700 GMT), Osasuna v Valencia (1900 GMT)
Espanyol v Athletic Bilbao (1900 GMT)