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ATLETICO - FCB / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Both Zaragoza and Barça’s form will be put the test on Saturday evening at La Romareda. The Aragonese outfit has just won three games in a row and are now just four points away from the safety. Meanwhile, the Catalans have just won eight games on the trot and have cut Real Madrid’s ten point lead down to six. A win would temporarily reduce the deficit to just three, with Madrid playing Valencia on Sunday night. Also, Barça are just one goal short of equalling their highest ever tally under Pep Guardiola.

Barça have a tough schedule, with crunch Champions league matches interlaced with their chase for the Liga title. Confidence is on a high after such a brilliant performance against AC Milan on Tuesday, which saw them through to their fifth consecutive semi final. And now they travel to a ground where they have done exceptionally well in recent seasons, although the wins have never been easy – and with Zaragoza fighting to stay up, this season’s encounter is likely to be just as challenging. In his pre-match press conference, Guardiola predicted “a very tough and intense match”.

Without Piqué

Gerard Piqué was taken off against Milan with a thigh injury and has not recovered in time to turn out against Zaragoza. The coaching staff have opted to travel with 19 players, all 16 available first team players plus Muniesa, Montoya and Tello from the reserves. In addition to Piqué, Afellay, Villa, Fontàs and Abidal are also out.

Aragonese dream

But Zaragoza have absences of their own to deal with. All of Mateos, Apoño and Luis García are suspended. But back to back wins against Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Sporting have put optimism back into the hearts of the Romareda faithful. Manager Manolo Jiménez has managed to turn fortunes around at Zaragoza and the players are going into this match in the firm belief that they can spring a major surprise.

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