PREVIEW: Barca eager to bounce back

Barcelona do not have long to dwell on their disappointment against AC Milan as they prepare for a run of fixtures which could have a huge impact on their season.

Barca's defence wasn't at its best at San Siro.

Barca's hopes of conquering Europe for a fourth time in eight seasons suffered a huge blow last night when they lost the first leg of their last-16 tie against Milan 2-0 in Italy.

However, the Catalan giants need to bounce back quickly as in the coming weeks they play a series of key matches - including two showdowns with arch rivals Real Madrid next week and also the return meeting with Milan on March 12.

The good news for Barca is they go into Saturday's league clash with Sevilla boasting a 12-point lead at the top of the table, but another slip-up would set the nerves jangling ahead of Tuesday's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Madrid at the Nou Camp, with the tie evenly poised at 1-1.

Barca midfielder Xavi, whose side go the Bernabeu in the league four days after the cup showdown, said: "It's a cup-tie and that motivates us, regardless of yesterday's result. We would love to get to that final, it will be a very tense game.

"(But) before then we have the league game, which is very important."

He added of the performance at the San Siro: "We need to correct our mistakes. We need to be more united than ever."

Improving Sevilla head to the Nou Camp having won three of their first four league games under new coach Unai Emery, and they will be hoping to take advantage of any European hangover the Catalan side might be suffering from.

Not that Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic is expecting anything other than a fully-focused Barca outfit.

He said: "We are talking about the best team in the world. No team is happy after losing, but they have too much quality to say that the defeat is going to make them nervous."

Like Barca, Sevilla are also in cup action next week as they host Atletico Madrid in their semi-final second leg, trailing 2-1 from the first meeting.

Atletico will hope to go into that game on the back of a league win over Espanyol at the Vicente Calderon, where Diego Simeone's men have won their last 13 league matches.

Stuttering champions Real Madrid, who are four points behind second-placed Atletico, warm up for their double-header against Barca with a trip to rock-bottom Deportivo La Coruna.

Madrid have only won once at the Riazor in the last two decades - that victory coming in 2010 - but with Depor on a five-match losing streak, Jose Mourinho's men will be confident of claiming all three points on Saturday.

Also this weekend, Abel Resino's first match in charge of Celta Vigo sees him face former club Granada, fourth-placed Malaga have an Andalusian derby with Real Betis, Valencia in fifth travel to struggling Real Zaragoza, second-bottom Real Mallorca host Getafe and Rayo Vallecano take on Real Valladolid.

 

On Friday, Real Sociedad recovered from a goal down to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 and claim a first away victory over their arch rivals in over a decade.

Struggling Athletic took the lead in the Basque derby on the half-hour mark through Ibai Gomez but Primera Division high-flyers Sociedad drew level almost immediately thanks to Antoine Griezmann.

The visitors then netted twice in 10 second-half minutes through Imanol Agirretxe and Carlos Vela to claim the victory which saw them move level with fifth-placed Valencia on 40 points and also end the club's miserable run of results in their neighbours' back yard.

 

Saturday's La Liga Fixtures

Mallorca vs Getafe

Real Zaragoza vs Valencia

Deportivo La Coruna vs Real Madrid

Barcelona vs Sevilla

Sunday's La Liga Fixtures

Rayo Vallecano vs Real Valladolid

Celta Vigo vs Granada

Atletico Madrid vs Espanyol

Real Betis vs Malaga

Monday's La Liga Fixtures

Levante vs Osasuna

Friday's La Liga Results

Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Real Sociedad



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