Madrid, Feb 18 (IANS) Spanish football club Barcelona have little time to rest as they look to increasing their lead at the top of La Liga this weekend.
Fresh from the 3-1 win away to Sporting Gijon on Wednesday which saw them move six points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, Barcelona have their longest away-trip of the season to look forward to as they fly to the Canary Islands to face struggling Las Palmas, reports Xinhua.
Las Palmas are currently second from bottom of the league, but try and play attractive football under coach Quique Setien.
With a Champions League tie the following week, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique will make changes with Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto all coming into the side after they were rested in midweek.
A win would see the Catalans momentarily move nine points ahead of Atletico Madrid, who have a difficult home game against fourth placed Villarreal on Sunday night.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone must also consider squad changes and is not happy that his side play on Sunday with their Champions League tie the following week and the Madrid derby against Real Madrid the following Saturday.
Villarreal look comfortable in fourth place, but know that with Atletico, Real Madrid and Barca still to play their lead over fifth placed Sevilla could evaporate should they lose their games against the ‘big-three’.
Real Madrid are also in Sunday action and will travel to face an improving Malaga on Sunday afternoon.
Real produced arguably their best away performance of the season as they won away to Roma in the Champions League and although Gareth Bale is still unavailable, they will look to continue their improvement in a difficult ground.
Elsewhere, Espanyol coach Constantine Galca is very much in the last chance saloon as his side entertains Deportivo la Coruna.
Recent poor form has seen Espanyol drop to just outside of the relegation zone and failure to win on Saturday would see the club start searching for their third coach of the campaign.
Betis and Sporting Gijon also need points to climb away from the danger zone and it promises to be a tight game in Seville, although Sporting did rest some key players against Barca with an eye on Saturday’s fixture.
Celta and Eibar also go head to head with both sides looking towards a place in Europe for next season. Eibar’s win at home to Levante last weekend means they already have more points than all last season.
Rayo and Sevilla have an early kick off on Sunday and there should be a good atmosphere in Vallecas as Rayo look to escape danger and Sevilla close in on fourth place.
Athletic Club Bilbao’s San Mames is the venue for a Basque derby between traditional rivals, Athletic Club and Real Sociedad, who travel to Bilbao after winning their last two games.
‘La Real’ have also enjoyed a full week to prepare for the fixture as Athletic had a European game on Thursday night. European obligations also mean Valencia have little time to prepare for their trip to Granada as Gary Neville looks to build on last weekend’s first league win as coach.
Valencia beat Granada in the Cup, but will find the La Liga strugglers tougher rivals in the league as coach Jose Ramon Sandoval fights to keep his job.