Barca braced for Sevilla test

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MADRID, October 29- Champions Barcelona have taken the plaudits over the past two seasons for their stylish football but Jose Mourinho's goal-plundering Real Madrid have bagged the limelight of late while Barca look a shadow of the side that has won back-to-back league titles.Barcelona lie a point behind Real Madrid in third place, but Pep Guardiola’s side have a tough test on Saturday at home to Kings Cup holders Sevilla while Real are at promoted Hercules.

"The fact that we have won (the previous) two titles doesn’t mean we don’t have any pressure to deal with," said Barca coach Guardiola. "It is a huge challenge for us this season."

Barca’s Spanish World Cup stars have looked jaded and have been struggling for goals with Argentine Lionel Messi the only striker on top of his game with four goals in his last two matches in all competitions.

David Villa may be Spain’s joint all-time leading goalscorer with 44 goals, but the World Cup winner has just two league goals to his name since joining Barcelona from Valencia.

"We try not to judge him (Villa) because he has or hasn’t scored a goal," said Guardiola. "He works hard and he creates for us from inside the pitch. The goals will go in sooner or later."

Sevilla are sixth, six points behind pacesetters Real, but must do without goalkeeper Andres Palop due to a foot injury.

However, Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano can take heart from the return to form of Brazilian international forward Luis Fabiano, who scored his first goals of the season in last weekend’s 4-3 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Real Madrid have scored 16 goals in their last three league matches and Cristiano Ronaldo’s quadruple in the 6-1 win over Racing Santander took him onto nine league goals.

The Portuguese has been accused of being too individual in the past and has looked much more of a team player since Mourinho’s arrival.

"I wouldn’t have scored the four goals without the help of my team-mates and I am a team player," explained Ronaldo.

Hercules have already caused the biggest sensation of the season by defeating Barcelona 2-0 at Camp Nou and hope for another giant scalp by becoming the first team to beat Mourinho’s Real.

Mourinho had his name chanted by the fans during the Racing win and even a 0-0 Kings Cup first leg draw at Real Murcia on Tuesday – when a second string Real team took to the field – cannot dampen optimism in the capital.

Villarreal, level on points with Barcelona, have won six of their last seven games and aim to continue that unbeaten run at Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Coach Juan Carlos Garrido was a surprise choice to succeed Ernesto Valverde in February but has got the best out of Spanish internationals Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla while strike duo Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar have five goals apiece.

After going their first six games unbeaten to top the table Valencia have lost momentum, losing to Barcelona and Real Mallorca.

Valencia, four points behind Real, host bottom side Real Zaragoza on Saturday looking to get back to winning ways ahead of Tuesday’s vital Champions League home match against Rangers.

Atletico Madrid, eighth, host Almeria on Sunday still dwelling on last weekend’s 2-0 loss against Villarreal when they had three penalty claims ignored.

"I have never seen or played in a match where the referee failed to award three penalties," said Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi. "It wouldn’t happen to Barcelona or Real Madrid."

Fixtures

Saturday:

Valencia v Real Zaragoza (1600GMT), Hercules v Real Madrid (1800GMT), Barcelona v Sevilla (2000GMT)

Sunday (1500GMT unless otherwise stated):

Sporting Gijon v Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruna v Espanyol, Racing Santander v Osasuna, Malaga v Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid v Almeria (1700GMT), Athletic Bilbao v Getafe (1900GMT)

Monday (2000GMT):

Real Mallorca v Levante

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