Barcelona hopes to heap pressure on Madrid

Barcelona, by its high standards, is sailing in chartered La Liga territory this season.

The Catalans have exhibited a certain level of dominance in Spain's top flight over the past few seasons, claiming three-straight La Liga titles.

But this season, Barcelona finds itself seven points adrift of leaders Real Madrid, sitting in second place with 48 points.

With Barcelona set to face Osasuna on Saturday at the Reyno de Navarra, it hopes to cut down Real Madrid's lead down to four points ahead of its Sunday fixture at the Bernabeu.

The deficit does not seem to worry defender Gerard Pique, who said that the reigning European champions are strong enough to still win the title.

"At the beginning of the season I would have happily signed up for this situation," Pique said. "Sometimes we win, others we don't, but we always want it. We feel strong enough to move ahead. Count on us being there in the fight at the end of the season."

Pique also offered a prediction for the remainder of the season.

"The struggle for the [La Liga] title is going to be a long one for whoever ends up winning it."

Barcelona has suffered just one loss this season, but its six draws have set the club off of the blistering pace set by Real Madrid.

The Catalans are unbeaten in their last eight league games, taking 22 points over that stretch.

Osasuna, tied with Malaga for eighth place on 28 points, has not picked up three points in a match since Dec. 18 when it defeated Villarreal, 2-1. Since then, Los Rojillos have drawn three and lost two.

Real Madrid, on a six-game winning run in La Liga play, will need a win to maintain the gap over Barcelona should the Catalans take maximum points Saturday. The Galacticos will have need to try and accomplish that feat against a difficult opponent Sunday as it welcomes fourth-place Levante to the Bernabeu.

Third-place Valencia appears to be out of the title race as it trails Real Madrid by 18 points, but the club now has their sights set on solidifying their place in the top three. Without a win in its last five matches, Valencia will look to pick up three points against second-from-bottom Sporting Gijon.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Espanyol welcomes Real Zaragoza to the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, Malaga hosts Mallorca at the Estadio La Rosaleda, Villarreal and Granada square off at El Madrigal, and Rayo Vallecano faces Getafe at the Teresa Rivero.

Racing hosts Atletico Madrid and Real Betis hosts Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while La Liga play concludes on Monday with Sevilla looking to snap a seven- game winless run with three points at Real Sociedad.