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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

La Liga preview: Barca primed to extend streak

The 2010/11 champions have made blistering start to the season and could go 11 points clear.

BARCELONA COULD OPEN up an 11-point advantage ahead of defending champions Real Madrid if results go their way on the weekend.

The 2010/11 champions have made blistering start to the season, winning all four of their opening matches and will look to maintain that perfect record when they host lowly Granada on Saturday.

And Barcelona’s push to reclaim the La Liga title could be given a significant boost if 12th-placed Real taste defeat at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

But their depth will be tested after Spanish international defender Gerard Pique sprained his ankle in Tito Vilanova’s first UEFA Champions match in charge of the club, which finished 3-2 at the expense of Spartak Moscow.

Pique is likely to miss three weeks of football and joins fellow defender Carles Puyol on the sidelines after he suffered knee ligament damage. Real head to the Estadio del Rayo Vallecano on the back of a thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City but will be wary of Vallecano’s recent form.

Jose Mourinho’s men, who sit on four points, were beaten for a second time in the league after falling to a solitary strike from Sevilla midfielder Piotr Trochowski but returned to winning ways midweek against the reigning English champions.

However, Real will need to be at their best against a team who have lost just once in four league games.

Paco Jemez’s troops tasted defeat for the first time on September 19, going down 4-3 in a thrilling encounter away to Atletico Madrid but were unbeaten in their opening three games prior to that loss.

Elsewhere, surprise-packets Malaga will aim to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they make the trip to Athletic Bilbao.

Malaga, who were forced to sell prize assets Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) and Salomon Rondon (Rubin Kazan) to balance the books, occupy second position on the table and opened their Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win at home to Zenit Saint Petersburg. Valencia, La Liga champions on six occasions, travel to third-placed Mallorca, while Atletico Madrid, the 2012 Super Cup winners, play host to Real Valladolid as they look to keep pace with the league’s top four.

In one of the weekend’s toughest fixtures, Deportivo De La Coruna and Sevilla, both unbeaten to-date, meet at the Estadio Municipal de Riazor. Meanwhile, Real Zaragoza entertain lowly Osasuna, struggling Espanyol do battle with Real Betis, Celta de Vigo face Getafe and Levante clash with Philippe Montanier’s Real Sociedad.

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