Real Madrid's new recruit Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar poses during his presentation at Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday. Photo: AFP
Plagued by injuries and losing ground in the title race, Spanish champions Real Madrid are desperately trying to cling on to the coat-tails of leaders Barcelona ahead of 'El Clasico' at Camp Nou on December 14.
Real already trail Barcelona by six points and under-fire coach Bernd Schuster will be aware that his side can't afford to fall further behind.
Fourth-placed Real are at home to Sevilla, two points behind them in fifth, on Sunday as they bid to get last weekend's 3-1 derby defeat to Getafe out of their system.
"You have to bear in mind that there are lots of points left in the season," said Real captain Raul. "We like difficult challenges and we are not going to hide."
Sevilla, thrashed 3-0 by Barcelona last time out, have only lost once on their travels and will be looking to take advantage of a Real team depleted by injuries.
Gabriel Heinze, Pepe, Wesley Sneijder, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mahamadou Diarra and Miguel Torres are all sidelined with Ruben de la Red also missing through health reasons.
"These things sometimes happen. It is just bad luck," said Italian centre-half Fabio Cannavaro.
The gravity of the situation has persuaded Schuster to go out and sign Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is out with an ankle injury, for 20 million euros with the Dutch international signing until 2013.
Barcelona, unbeaten since an opening day loss to Numancia, are flying at the top and know three points at home to Valencia on Sunday would pile the pressure on Real for 'El Clasico' the following week.
Last December Real beat Barca 1-0 with Julio Baptista, who has now left the club, scoring the winner to move seven points clear at the top and their rivals never recovered.
The tables have now been turned and Barca will be hoping to take a giant step towards the championship.
"I knew the team was capable of playing like we are doing now," said French forward Thierry Henry. "However, Valencia have a good defence and have not lost away from home so we will have to be at our best."
Valencia lie third, five points behind Barcelona and this appears a perfect opportunity to lay down a title marker.
Villarreal are a point above Valencia in second and on Saturday they host Getafe who seem to relish playing against the top sides having beaten Real and drawn 1-1 with Barca.
With four out of the top five in action against each other Atletico Madrid hope to make up ground at promoted Sporting Gijon.
"We have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League so now we need to take our European form into the league," explained winger Simao.Fixtures Saturday
Villarreal v Getafe, Sporting Gijon v Atletico Madrid, Barcelona v ValenciaSunday
Real Mallorca v Recreativo Huelva, Osasuna v Valladolid, Deportivo La Coruna v Malaga, Numancia v Almeria, Racing Santander v Athletic Bilbao, Real Betis v Espanyol, Real Madrid v Sevilla.