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Champions League proving a distraction in Spain

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30 Mar 2013 05:46:52

Champions League proving a distraction in Spain

There may be a full programme of Spanish Primera Liga matches this weekend but the country's top teams appear firmly focused on next week's Champions League quarter-finals.

League leaders Barcelona travel to Celta Vigo while champions Real Madrid are in Aragon to take on Real Zaragoza, and yet both teams seem more concentrated on their European commitments.

Madrid's Xabi Alonso met fans for an autograph signing session this week and then revealed that the nine-time European champions' supporters are also far more concerned with midweek affairs.

"What most have said to me is that they want the 10th (European title)," he said.

"The Champions League is dear to all us Madridistas (Real fans), (we want) to go all the way to the final.

"But before then there are several steps to take and the first of those is on Wednesday, playing at home.

"We want to pocket a good result and it's sure to be a good game and a great atmosphere."

Real host Galatasaray in their quarter-final, first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu as they go in search of a third straight semi-final appearance.

However, they have not reached the final since 2002, when they beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1, and such a long exile from European club football's showpiece event does not sit well with gluttonous fans used to a diet of regular success.

It has taken on extra special significance this season as Real trail bitter rivals Barca by 13 points in La Liga, with no realistic prospect of retaining their title.

"The league situation is not ideal but we still want to keep going in the same manner, doing things well and trying to win every game," added Alonso.

"Zaragoza are having problems, they're on a bad run but every away match at every ground is complicated and I don't think it will be easy."

The Aragonese have not won a league match since the turn of the year and currently sit just one place above the drop zone.

They've only picked up four points from a possible 33 and have scored just five times in that period.

Contrast that with Madrid, who won 4-0 when the sides met at the Bernabeu in November and have won six in a row in La Liga, and the hosts appear to have little chance of success.

Real scored as many goals in their last match as Zaragoza had done in their previous 11.

It's not just Real who are fixated on Europe, though, as Barca also have more than one eye on Paris Saint-Germain.

Influential midfielder Xavi Hernandez played 90 minutes for Spain against France on Tuesday despite carrying a hamstring problem and local press reports claim he will be rested at the weekend in order to give him time to be fully fit for another trip to the French capital.

Celta are three points from safety and desperate to get a result to boost their survival chances.

While Barca can certainly consider resting some of their stars, the third Spanish representatives in Europe's premier competition, Malaga, cannot afford that luxury.

Sixth in the table, they travel to Madrid to face Rayo Vallecano, who lie three points further back in ninth.

Third-placed Atletico Madrid play host to another Champions League-chasing side, Valencia, on Sunday at the Vicente Calderon.

Fixtures (kick-off times GMT):

Saturday

Rayo Vallecano v Malaga (1500), Celta Vigo v Barcelona (1700), Real Zaragoza v Real Madrid (1900), Levante v Sevilla (2100)

Sunday

Valladolid v Osasuna (1000), Mallorca v Deportivo (1500), Espanyol v Real Sociedad (1700), Atletico Madrid v Valencia (1900)

Monday

Athletic Bilbao v Granada (1800), Real Betis v Getafe (2000)


AFP

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