Real Madrid wary of Zaragoza threat

There is a relatively widespread belief that there is nothing left to play for at the top of the La Liga table.

But don't tell that to Real Madrid.

Real comes into the weekend trailing first-place Barcelona by 13 points, but maximum points over Real Zaragoza at La Romareda on Saturday would place added pressure on the Catalans to maintain their sizeable gap.

There is also plenty at stake for Zaragoza, which is engulfed in a battle against relegation. Coming into the weekend two points above the drop zone, one slip-up could see the club fall into the danger area.

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka is aware that Zaragoza will be well- motivated, but he also stressed that his side is equally driven.

"They are in a difficult position, and for us it is an important match after the international break, where luckily we did not have any serious injuries as has happened on other occasions, because we are on a good run of form," Karanka said. "We want to win and carry on the run of wins we were having before this break. The team is doing very well and the decisive part of the season is starting. We have to finish like this."

Madrid has won eight of its last nine La Liga contests by a combined score of 26-7. The streak, which included a 2-1 win over Barcelona, has helped the club overtake Atletico Madrid for second place in Spain's top flight.

Jose Mourinho's side now has its sights set on narrowing the gap between itself and the Catalan club, and maximum points against Zaragoza would be an ideal way to begin the final haul of the season.

Madrid will know exactly what result it needs to get in order to close the gap on, or keep pace with, Barcelona. The Catalans will kick off prior to Real on Saturday as they head to the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos to take on a Celta Vigo side that is looking to end its three-game losing skid in league play.

Also on Saturday, Malaga will try to end a four-game winless run when it heads to the Teresa Rivero to face Rayo Vallecano while Levante hopes to jump ahead of Sevilla in the table with a victory over Unai Emery's men at the Ciutat de Valencia.

Sunday's La Liga action is headlined by a massive showdown in the race for a top-four finish. Atletico Madrid is holding down third place with 60 points on the season while fifth-place Valencia remains in contention for a Champions League berth with 45 points. The two sides will meet at the Vicente Calderon.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Espanyol hosts Real Sociedad at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, Mallorca welcomes Deportivo to the Iberostar Stadium and Osasuna heads to the Jose Zorrilla to take on Valladolid.

And on Monday, Athletic Bilbao welcomes Granada to San Mames while Getafe ventures to the Benito Villamarin to face Real Betis.