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Level-headed Alonso not thinking about Barcelona
While La Liga gears up for the first Clasico of the season next weekend, Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso refuses to be side-tracked and says a win against Sporting Gijon will be just as valuable.
Madrid are in ominous form at the moment and have a three-point lead plus a game in hand over reigning champions Barcelona.
They are now looking for their 14th successive victory while Barca, who face Levante at Camp Nou, have been stuttering away from home.
Real have been in blistering form in attack, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way with 16 goals in the league, while Gonzalo Higuain is not far behind on 12 and Karim Benzema has seven.
It will not be an easy game, however, against Sporting, who beat them at the Bernabeu last season and have been playing well, although they were thumped 4-0 by Levante last weekend.
"This season we have taken a step forward, we are playing fantastically and we dont want it to stop," said Alonso.
"As a group we are functioning well and so that also helps all the players individually. I am going through one of the best spells of my career but we will have to wait and see how the season finishes.
"I have a lot of respect for Sporting. The three points in Gijon are as important as those against Barcelona.
"We have not yet thought about that match, although I understand that others will already be looking at it. The coach will make a decision on that game when it comes, but first we have Sporting."
Barca have drawn and lost their last two away matches but their home stadium remains a fortress where they have scored 34 goals and are yet to concede.
In mid-week they brushed aside Rayo Vallecano 4-0 in a match brought forward due to their participation in the Club World Cup later this month.
There was controversy, though, with Gerard Pique apparently deliberately earning a yellow card for time wasting that means he will be banned this weekend but will be clear to play against Madrid.
The football league are now considering whether to take action against him.
Striker David Villa has not been a regular in the side in recent months but denies that this is a problem.
"I am as confident or maybe more so than I was last season," he said.
"I am working hard so that my team-mates, the fans and my family are happy. There is still a long way to go in this campaign but hopefully it will be successful."
Villa's former side Valencia, in third, are on a good run, having won six of their last seven games, and take on Espanyol.
Malaga and Sevilla occupy the Europa League positions and they play Real Sociedad and Getafe respectively.
Osasuna, who play Real Betis, have found themselves on the fringes of the European places following a few good results.
Athletic Bilbao will look to bounce back at Mallorca, after their 11-match unbeaten run came to an end in surprising fashion at home to struggling Granada, who have moved clear of the relegation zone and entertain Zaragoza.
Bottom side Racing Santander face Villarreal and there is a mid-table clash between Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano.
Saturday (1700GMT unless otherwise stated):
Sporting Gijon v Real Madrid, Racing Santander v Villarreal, Barcelona v Levante (1900GMT), Valencia v Espanyol (2100GMT)
Atletico Madrid v Rayo Vallecano (1100GMT), Real Sociedad v Malaga (1500GMT), Osasuna v Real Betis (1700GMT), Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao (1900GMT), Granada v Real Zaragoza (2130GMT)
Sevilla v Getafe
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