One down, three to go for Barcelona as Real give chase

MADRID, May 4, 2010 (AFP) - With just three games left in La Liga, Barcelona are in the pole position to retain their league title but there is no room for error with eternal rivals Real Madrid breathing down their necks a point behind in second.

Barcelona overcame one of their most difficult fixtures with a 4-1 win at Villarreal on Saturday and entertain strugglers Tenerife on Tuesday at Camp Nou knowing a slip-up could allow Real to snatch the title from their grasp.

Barcelona's players wave to supporters after their Spanish league football match against Villarreal at Madrigal stadium in Villarreal on 01 May, 2010. AFP PHOTO

"It (the Villarreal win) was a big step, but not decisive as there are still nine points left to play for," said midfielder Xavi.

"Everybody expected us to slip up (against Villarreal) but the team were strong and we are committed to the cause and really want to win this title."

Real Madrid are at fourth-placed Real Mallorca on Wednesday in arguably their toughest remaining fixture while Barcelona still have a testing trip to Sevilla on Saturday.

Following their semi-final Champions League exit to Inter Milan the league title is all that remains for Barca who have not managed to hit the heights of last season when they won a unique league, Kings Cup and Champions League treble.

Promoted Tenerife have won just once away from home all season but have a lot to play for lying third from bottom with three games remaining.

Since losing 2-0 to Barcelona in 'El Clasico' Real Madrid have won the subsequent four games to keep their title hopes alive although they needed an 89th minute winner from Cristiano Ronaldo to down Osasuna 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

It was a poor display but Ronaldo's 22nd league goal of the campaign sealed another late win which is something Real have specialised in this season.

"We are going to force Barcelona to get 99 points (they currently have 90) to be champions," promised Real coach Manuel Pellegrini. "My team are in the right frame of mind to win the remaining three games."

Mallorca, currently lie two points above Sevilla in the final Champions League spot, provide stiff opposition for Real especially with home advantage as they have won 14 out of 17 games at their Ono stadium this season.

Sevilla travel to Racing Santander on Tuesday knowing a win would put pressure on Mallorca ahead of the Madrid showdown.

Sevilla must do without Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano due to a sprained ankle that is also likely to rule him out of the home match against Barcelona on Saturday.

Racing are just a point above the relegation zone and looking over their shoulders nervously as are a number of teams.

Valladolid, second from bottom two points from safety, face Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday hoping the capital side have their mind on the cups.

Atletico have reached the final of the Kings Cup and Europa League and it has impacted their league campaign with last season's fourth-placed finishers lying down in 10th.

"We don't intend to think about finals and we want to finish the league campaign with the most points possible," said Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores. "I don't see my players not going out to win."

Valencia have secured Champions League football and will be keen to move a step closer to wrapping up third place with a win at home to struggling Xerez on Tuesday.

Bottom side Xerez, five points from safety, could be relegated if they fail to beat Valencia and other results go against them.

A total of nine teams are involved in the relegation battle with 12th placed Osasuna four points above the relegation zone.

Malaga are level on points with third from bottom Tenerife and have a tough trip to San Mames to tackle Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.


Fixtures

Tuesday - all 1900 GMT unless stated

Getafe v Sporting Gijon, Atletico Madrid v Valladolid, Racing Santander v Sevilla, Barcelona v Tenerife, Valencia v Xerez (2100 GMT)

Wednesday - all 1900 GMT unless stated

Real Zaragoza v Espanyol, Osasuna v Deportivo La Coruna, Athletic Bilbao v Malaga, Real Mallorca v Real Madrid (2100 GMT)

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