Madrid and Barcelona vie for the lead ahead the 'clasico'
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 06, 2015 10:31 AM
Barcelona's Luis Suarez, left, celebrates with Neymar after scoring his side’s second goal during the Champions League Group E soccer match between FC Barcelona and BATE Borisov at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid plays at Sevilla and Barcelona hosts Villarreal in the Spanish league this weekend, with both teams looking to stay in front before they face each other for the first time this season.
In their final games before the "clasico," Madrid travels to Seville looking to defend its lead at the top of the table with Barcelona trailing on goal difference. The Catalan club will look to keep up the pace when it faces fifth-place Villarreal at the Camp Nou.
The Spanish powerhouses have 24 points each from 10 matches, three points more than third-place Celta Vigo and four more than fourth-place Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.
Celta hosts seven-place Valencia on Saturday, while Atletico Madrid hosts Sporting Gijon.
Here's what to watch for at the Spanish league this weekend:
A victory against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium on Sunday will likely be enough for Real Madrid to stay in front heading into the Nov. 21 game against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Rafa Benitez's team is the only unbeaten side after 10 rounds and is coming off an important 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, a result that allowed it to reach the competition's knockout round in advance.
"The next game in Seville will be really difficult but we know that we must give everything to maintain this run of results," Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla said.
SOUTH AMERICAN DUO
Barcelona remains without the injured Lionel Messi but it has been thriving under the command of Brazilian forward Neymar and Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez.
The duo has combined for 17 of the team's last 20 goals. Neymar scored twice and Suarez netted once on Wednesday in Barcelona's 3-0 win over BATE Borisov in the Champions League.
"Last season was the best in my life, but now I am in a great moment," said the 23-year-old Neymar, who is the Spanish league's leading scorer with nine goals.
Real Madrid's team has been depleted by a series of injuries this season and now it also has to face an off-the-field problem with striker Karim Benzema, who is involved in a blackmail investigation in France.
Benzema is back in his home country facing preliminary criminal charges as part of the probe over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema spent about 24 hours in custody in Versailles but returned to training with Madrid later on Thursday.
Real Madrid President Florentino Perez expressed his full support to the player, but the France striker most likely won't be available to play against Sevilla.
In addition to the absence of Karim Benzema, Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez will also be without left back Marcelo, who injured a left leg muscle in the first half against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Madrid doctors still haven't disclosed the extent of the injury, but the Brazilian defender is in danger of missing the game against Barcelona in two weeks.
In the Champions League game, Marcelo was replaced by Nacho Fernandez, who eventually scored the winner for the Spanish side.
Barcelona also has been plagued by injuries this season and it could be without one of its regular starters in the game against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic tore a right leg muscle in the first half against BATE Borisov on Wednesday and has already been ruled out of Sunday's game against Villarreal.
There was no official indication as to when he would be fit to return for the Catalan club, but he might not make it to the "clasico."