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Barca visit bottom club Malaga with Chelsea firmly in mind

AFP  |  Madrid 

enjoy breathing space again at the top of and can afford to keep one eye on Chelsea when his side visit bottom tomorrow.

While the Catalans 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid last weekend extended the gap at the summit to eight points, their advantage over Chelsea in is more precarious.

Barca take a 1-1 draw, and an away goal, to the on Wednesday but Chelsea controlled much of the first leg in and will fancy their chances of an upset.

With already nursing a hamstring and out with a groin strain, will be wary of further damage against a side without a victory in 15 attempts.

It means key players are likely to be rested and others given the opportunity to stake a claim, particularly in attack, where the third spot next to and is yet to be established.

Ousmane Dembele has endured a difficult debut season, plagued by problems with fitness and form, but the has shown signs of improvement and played in the Catalan Super Cup win over Espanyol on Wednesday.

"He tried to get involved in play and has worked on individual moves," said.

"This is useful, little by little, we hope he translates it into games."

Dembele is jostling for position with the creative Philippe Coutinho, preferred against Atletico, and Paulinho, who offers the most defensive resilience from the front.

Anything but a comfortable win at would represent a major shock.

were, in fact, the last team to beat in La Liga, with a 2-0 victory in April, but few players from that triumph are still at the club while the coach, Michel, was sacked in January. His replacement, Jose Gonzalez, has overseen six defeats in a row.

It means Atletico will hold little hope of their deficit being cut this weekend but the challenge for men is to stay in touch by beating ninth-placed Celta Vigo on Sunday.

A 3-0 thrashing of Lokomotiv Moscow in the on Thursday has already recovered the winning feeling, with Atletico registering eight victories on the bounce before they were halted by Messis 25-yard free-kick.

After the win over Lokomotiv, Simeone was asked about taking charge at Saint-Germain next season and he indicated his focus by replying: "Celta."

Real Madrid, meanwhile, swap Saint-Germain and the for Eibar and the Ipurua Municipal Stadium, the smallest stadium in with a capacity of just over 7,000.

team will be flying high after overcoming the biggest assignment of their season in and, like Barcelona, it may be that star players are given time off.

is unlikely to be among those rested, however, after the Welshman missed out on the starting line-up against PSG. Bales reaction this weekend will be significant.

Elsewhere on Saturday, host Valencia, needing a victory to reignite their hopes of qualifying for

Los Rojiblancos sit fifth in the table, eight points behind Valencia, knowing anything but a win this weekend would all-but end their top-four hopes.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 09 2018. 19:40 IST