Posted on Feb 19
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes during a Spanish Cup match on January 25. Barcelona hope that their midweek Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen will provide the perfect platform in their desperate attempt to slash Real Madrid's 13-point La Liga advantage.

Barcelona hope that their midweek Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen will provide the perfect platform in their desperate attempt to slash Real Madrid's 13-point La Liga advantage.

The Catalan side face a difficult home clash against third-placed Valencia this weekend.

Last week Barca started without Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas, and a youthful looking side struggled in frosty conditions in Pamplona against Osasuna, losing 3-2.

In particular, it was the defence which was opened up too easily and centre-half Gerard Pique was left in the stands during the midweek match with Leverkusen, where they came out 3-1 winners.

"Our Champions League progress is what we need to follow in the league," said Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

"It was an important match for us to win against Leverkusen because they were difficult opposition and that shows us what we now need to do in this competition. Without doubt that would keep us going strongly in the league.

"We cannot relax, we need to keep believing in ourselves and the results will follow.

Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao (C) and teammates Arda Turan (L) and Koke (R) during a Europa League match on February 16. Atletico Madrid, whose next game is against Sporting Gijon, are showing the best form at the moment.

"We still believe that we can win the league but we have to go match by match. We are in the final of the King's Cup and we hope to retain the Champions League trophy.

"Other teams know us better now and so that maybe is one of the reasons why we haven't done so well away from home. We are analysing the situation and looking to improve where we can."

The teams are bunching up below Valencia with just two points separating six teams and of those Atletico Madrid, whose next game is against Sporting Gijon, are showing the best form at the moment.

They are still unbeaten in six league games under new coach Diego Simeone who has added new steel to the side.

Unfancied Levante had an excellent first half to the season but have now not won in seven matches and will hope to get back on track against Rayo Vallecano.

The pressure remains on Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, despite victory in their last match against Mallorca, as his richly-assembled squad have failed to convince.

They now face another difficult test against Athletic Bilbao who are also in the fight for a European place.

At the other end of the table Zaragoza play Real Betis while Granada meet Real Sociedad and Villarreal are away to Mallorca.

Fixtures:

Sunday

Granada v Real Sociedad (1100), Athletic Bilbao v Malaga (1500), Sporting Gijon v Atletico Madrid (1700), Mallorca v Villarreal (1700), Levante v Rayo Vallecano (1845), Barcelona v Valencia (2030)

Monday

Zaragoza v Real Betis (2000)

Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes during a Spanish Cup match on January 25. Barcelona hope that their midweek Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen will provide the perfect platform in their desperate attempt to slash Real Madrid's 13-point La Liga advantage.

Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes during a Spanish Cup match on January 25. Barcelona hope that their midweek Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen will provide the perfect platform in their desperate attempt to slash Real Madrid's 13-point La Liga advantage.