La Liga preview | World Soccer

Valencia could reclaim top spot in La Liga for at least 24 hours if they win away at Malaga tomorrow with leaders Real Madrid not playing until Sunday.

Malaga lie six places off the bottom with Valencia aiming to go a point clear of Madrid at the top.

Atletico Madrid aim to continue their impressive season that has seen them reach fourth spot in the Premiera Division as they take on Osasuna.

Goalkeeper Vicente Calderon could line up for Atletico following his recall to the capital this week, 18 months after originally being signed from Tenerife. Calderon was immediately loaned out to his former club but has been called on by Atletico as number one German Burgos has struggled with injury in recent weeks.

In the other Saturday fixture Real Betis meet Celta Vigo. All eyes will be on new Celta boss Radomir Antic as he looks to turn their season around.

The Balaidos have suffered a terrific fall from grace this season, picking up just four wins to languish a place outside the drop zone, after reaching the dizzy heights of the Champions League just last term.

Antic will be desperate to get off to a winning start as he has only been given a contract until the end of the season.

The following day Real Madrid travel to Valladolid in superb form having taken first place last week and thrashing rivals Valencia 5-1 on aggregate in the Copa del Rey. Madrid have the whole galaxy of stars to choose from with Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo both shaking off injuries and will be looking to finish the weekend atop of the division, regardless of what Valencia do.

Barcelona face strugglers Albacete as they attempt to bounce back from their disappointing cup exit at the hands of Real Zaragoza. Frank Rijkaard’s team will have to cope with the loss of Patrick Kluivert through injury. The Dutch striker has been in fantastic goal scoring form recently but Kluivert took a blow to his left knee in Thursday’s King’s Cup quarter-final second leg against Real Zaragoza and will be out for up to three weeks.

Third placed Deportivo La Coruna host Seville in the day’s evening match-up as they try to hold on to the coat tails of Madrid and Valencia.

Depor find themselves six points off the pace following their defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Basque county last weekend and will wish to vent their frustrations on Seville who lost star man Jose Reyes this week.

Seville fans are expected to protest against the sale of the player they were told would lead them into their centenary next year.

Following their cup heroics Zaragoza travel to bottom of the table Murcia for a real ‘six pointer’. Two places and seven points separate the two teams whose outlooks remain bleak.

Espanyol, who lie between the two, will be hoping for a stalemate in that match as they go into a daunting away game with sixth placed Villareal. Just two points off fourth place, Villareal know Champions League football is a real possibility and will be determined to avoid a slip-up at home to the second bottom side.

In two real mid-table encounters Athletic Bilbao go to Mallorca and Racing Santander travel to Real Sociedad. All four sides lie between eighth and 12th with just three points between those two positions.

Bilbao sit in eighth, Racing in ninth, Sociedad in 11th and Mallorca prop-up the pack in 12th so if any of the sides take three points they will be lifted to the top of the mid-table ‘mini-league’.

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