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Puyol and Thiago against Racing Santander / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

La Liga teams really made their mark in Europe this week -as if Barça’s demolition of Bayer
wasn’t enough, all three Europa Cup teams won, with Athletic Club grabbing the headlines
thanks to their defeat of Manchester United and Valencia and Atlético Madrid also getting good results.

Second derby in a week for Athletic Club

Sunday sees Athletic Club’s second derby game in a week, when they travel to Pamplona to
play Osasuna who lie seventh just two points and two places behind them. Osasuna’s ex-Barça
utility man Damia explained: “there’s a really intense rivalry between Bilbao and us. It’s a good
feeling though and these are the games you want to play. If we can win, we’ll consolidate our
position in the European places, everyone knows our aim is to stay up, but it’s exciting to be
fighting at the other end too”. His captain Patxi Puñal reckons: “Bilbao gave an exhibition in
Manchester. They’ll come here full of confidence, but we are at home and we are doing well
here”.

Good week for Valencia….so far

Valencia have enjoyed a good week, putting an end to their poor league run last weekend by
beating Granada and defeating PSV 4-2 in the Europa League on Thursday, but although they
are still in third place, they are only five points clear and will be looking to build on the week’s
success when Mallorca come to the Mestalla on Sunday ahead of their trips to Eindhoven and
Athletic Club next week.

Atlético look to progress

Atletico Madrid scored three great goals against Beskitas on Thursday night – and none of
them by Falcao!- as Salvia(2) and Adrian demonstrated the fire power that Simeone has at his
disposal and with four of the five teams immediately above them playing each other, three
points this Sunday from the visit of struggling Granada, could catapult them back into the
fight for the fourth Champions League spot. Two of those four, Levante and Malaga play on
Saturday and a win for the hosts would send them into that fourth place – for 24 hours at
least. However, Malaga winger Joaquim warned: “it won’t be easy, they are a strong team and
if they get ahead, it’s hard to catch them. They are full of experienced players, they know what
they are doing and they are where they are thanks to their own effort”.

Zaragoza’s problems”in their heads”

At the bottom, Zaragoza travel to Donosti after last weekend’s morale lifting win against
Villarreal. Zaragoza boss Manolo Jimenez insists his team’s problems are “in their heads, just
psychological – I’m trying to convince them that they can play at a high level”. Sporting have
an equally motivating boss in Javier Clemente of course, and for the visit to Gijón of Sevilla on
Saturday there will be further inspiration for the players, as the Sporting board have decided
to drop ticket prices to ensure a full house to get behind the team. Villarreal are the side the
bottom three have to catch and they host Getafe in Monday night’s game.

In the weekend’s other games, Real Madrid travel to Betis on Saturday night with Benzema still
a doubt, whilst at noon on Sunday, Espanyol, who’ve lost their last two matches at home, host
Rayo, who have won their last three games on the road to overtake Espanyol in the table.


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