PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB

Villarreal(35 points) currently have a seven point cushion over Zaragoza and Sporting, with Granada a further point ahead on 36 and Racing bottom on 25. Despite the bad news that their prolific striker Giuseppe Rossi, who has been out with a knee injury since last October, suffered another bad injury in training on Thursday which will rule him out for a further six months, Villarreal, who have lost just one of their last ten home games – drawing with Barça, Valencia and Real Madrid and beating Malaga in that run – will start favourites against the bottom club Racing – with just one win in their last 16 - on Sunday.

Fellow strugglers Zaragoza could also see any hopes of a fight back dashed if they are unable to beat Granada at La Romareda, with a win virtually ensuring another season in the top flight for the visitors and possibly leaving Zaragoza with a ten point gap between them and safety.

Tough call for Sporting

Sporting Gijon have taken just 9 points from their 16 away games so far this season and a trip to the Bernabeu on Saturday night can’t offer too much hope to Clemente’s relegation haunted side. Below the top two, Valencia(52 points) and Malaga(50) continue to battle it out for third place, with Emery’s team away to Espanyol and Pellegrini’s side hosting Real Sociedad.

Seville hunting down European spot

Of all the teams chasing European places behind Barça and Madrid, Seville are the only ones to have put together a consistent run of results and sit menacingly in seventh on 45 points ahead of Monday’s visit to Getafe, with their next three games against Levante, Real Madrid and Betis likely to be key in deciding their European options.

Sixth place Osasuna(46 points) travel to Seville’s city rivals Betis, hoping to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s thrashing at Rayo, whilst Athletic Bilbao(42) are at home to Mallorca in a game that sees Joaquin Caparros return to San Mames for his first league game since he left the club last season. Atletico Madrid are level on points with Bilbao, Espanyol and Getafe and on Sunday they play their second successive Madrid derby when they travel across the city to Vallecas to take on Rayo(40 points)