Published January 08, 2015
Barcelona, Spain (SportsNetwork.com) - Barcelona is riding high after booking a spot in the Copa del Rey final with heavyweight rival Real Madrid, but there is still all to do in the Spanish league as the Catalans enter the weekend in a three-way tie for first place.
Gerardo Martino's side, which holds the top spot in the league on goal difference, will welcome Rayo Vallecano to Camp Nou on Saturday. Given the 37- point disparity between the two clubs, it would seem as if three points for the reigning champions would be a foregone conclusion.
But after dispatching Real Sociedad over two legs in the Copa del Rey semifinals to secure another edition of El Clasico, Barcelona could potentially overlook its weekend opposition. Martino has urged his men to remain focused on the task at hand, emphasizing that there is always room for improvement.
"It's a Clasico - that's all I am saying," the Barcelona boss told a correspondent from fcbarcelona.cat. "It's very difficult to assess how the teams will be in two months, so first we will concentrate on the games we have before the final.
"There are three objectives this season and we fulfilled one of them (on Wednesday). We completed our objective. These players always play in finals. The team played a good match, but we can still play better. We still have time to improve - we can do it for more than 50 or 70 minutes. We could have scored more goals."
Barcelona's last home match in La Liga play ended in disappointing fashion as it suffered a 3-2 loss to Valencia, a result that put an end to the club's 31- match unbeaten run in home league matches. The Catalans managed to get back to winning ways in their last league contest by cruising to a 4-1 win at Sevilla.
But Rayo Vallecano could be heading to Camp Nou at just the right time. Paco Jemez's men sit second from bottom in the La Liga table with just 20 points from its 23 matches, but they have taken four points from their last two games, which included a scoreless draw with Levante and a 4-1 demolition of Malaga last time out. Iago Falque, who is on a season-long loan deal from Tottenham, bagged two goals in the club's defeat of Malaga, and the 24-year- old figures to be a key figure for Rayo if the visitors hope to claim a share of the spoils at Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid enter the weekend level with Barcelona on 57 points. Atletico can place additional pressure on Barcelona to take maximum points from Rayo by defeating Valladolid at the Vicente Calderon in Saturday's opening La Liga fixture, and Real Madrid will hope to keep pace on Sunday when it heads to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez to take on Getafe.
Villarreal has been usurped for fourth place in the Spanish top flight over the past few months, but the Yellow Submarine will attempt to strengthen its bid for Champions League football for next season, starting with a positive against Celta Vigo at El Madrigal on Saturday. Also on Saturday, Levante will put its five-match unbeaten run on the line when it welcomes Almeria to the Ciutat de Valencia.
Athletic Bilbao comes into the weekend in fourth place where it sits four points clear of Villarreal. Ernesto Valverde's men will hope to match the Yellow Submarine's result on Sunday when it hosts Espanyol at San Mames.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Valencia will go for a third straight win when it travels to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to take on Sevilla while Granada welcomes last-place Real Betis to Los Carmenes.
Monday's lone match will pit Malaga and Real Sociedad against one another at La Rosaleda while Friday's only contest in the Spanish top flight saw Elche and Osasuna remain level in the table after the two sides played to a 0-0 draw.