BARCELONA // Barcelona's nine game winning league run ended with last weekend's draw against Getafe, but the Catalans go into tomorrow's key game at Sevilla buoyed after Wednesday's 5-2 Champions League victory at Sporting Lisbon guaranteed them first place in their group. Domestically, Barca head the Primera Liga by three points, an important advantage ahead of consecutive games against title challengers Sevilla, Valencia, Real Madrid and Villarreal.
"We are ready to face the challenge of the games ahead," said coach Pep Guardiola. "The win against Sporting was good for us and I was happy with several performances, especially Bojan Krkric who played in the centre of attack." Sevilla bring up the chasing pack and sit in fifth, five points behind the Catalans. Despite having arguably the strongest squad in their history, their colourful president Jose Del Nido was unable to prevent Barca signing attacking defender Daniel Alves and Malian midfielder Seydou Keita, two of their best players last season, in the summer.
Alves cost ?29million (Dh138m), making him the most expensive right-back in the world, but he's performed well at the Camp Nou and set up Keita's equaliser against Getafe. With Lionel Messi back after missing the Getafe game, Barca look formidable - yet Sevilla have the best defence in the league having conceded just eight in 12 games. And with attacking talents like top scorers Freddie Kanoute, Luis Fabiano and Ernesto Chevanton aided by a passionate 45,000 sell-out crowd at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, the Andalusians will be no underdogs.
Should Bayern Munich win the next two games, their Bundesliga future would be as bright as Franck Ribery's new pink boots. The French winger has masterminded the German champions's eight-game unbeaten run. After their worst start in more than three decades, Bayern are playing catch-up with the leaders. The next two games see Bayern face the only two teams above them in the league: Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim, the tiny promoted side who have remained at the top against expectations.
Bayern are on a roll, not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday. Strikers Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni are finally finding the target, having combined for six goals in the last two games. "Franck Ribery, Miroslav Klose and I are a dream threesome," Toni said. "We have a great understanding, that's the secret of Bayern." Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov could return for Sunday's derby match at Manchester City after missing two games with a hamstring injury. "With a hamstring you've got to be careful, it's never an easy one," manager Alex Ferguson said. "I've got to judge whether it's wise to use him on Sunday or use him on the bench."