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Barca look to put pressure on Madrid

Spain,Sports, Fri, 23 Mar 2012 IANS

Madrid, March 23 (IANS) FC Barcelona have a chance to put pressure on Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish Primera Liga title when they travel to play Mallorca Saturday night.


Barcelona's run of eight consecutive wins in the league, coupled with two draws for Real Madrid in their last two games have seen the gap at the top of the table narrowed to just six points. Should Barcelona be able to stretch their winning run to nine games this Saturday, Real Madrid will kick off their game at home to Real Sociedad just three points ahead of the Catalans.


Barca coach Pep Guardiola has adopted a policy of saying his side have no chance of winning the title, but the truth is that Barca have crept up on the rails, thanks mainly to the form of midfielder Xavi Hernandez and the goals of Lionel Messi, who has scored 34 in the league this season and whose hat-trick Tuesday saw him become the top goal scorer in Barca's history at the age of just 24.


Goals shouldn't be the problem Saturday, but Guardiola will have to make changes to his defence. Dani Alves is suspended after being sent off against Granada and is likely to be replaced by B-team player Martin Montoya, while on the left Eric Abidal is unavailable as he awaits a liver transplant and a muscle injury has sidelined Adriano, Xinhua reported.


Carles Puyol will probably step across to cover on the left with Javier Mascherano partnering Gerard Pique in central defence.


Mascherano, who is not the tallest of players, means Barca could struggle against high balls in their penalty area and Mallorca, coached by the experienced Joaquin Caparros will look to exploit that from set pieces.


Mallorca's 3-2 win away to Sporting Gijon means the side is now virtually safe from any threat of relegation and even has an outside chance of qualifying for Europe next season.


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