barca, real up against it

MADRID - The fourth round of the Spanish Liga programme will be played between today and Thursday, and includes difficult away matches for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

MADRID - The fourth round of the Spanish Liga programme will be played between today and Thursday, and includes difficult away matches for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The twin giants have both won all three of their opening games - the same as revelation team Athletic Bilbao - but will now have to work harder to keep intact their 100 percent records.

The fourth-round matches kick off today with sixth-placed Sevilla at home to Mallorca, who are joint fourth with Valencia.

Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez will have to decide who to drop between Alvaro Negredo and Frederic Kanoute - both scored against Osasuna on Saturday - in order to make room for the in-form Luis Fabiano.

"That is the kind of problem that any coach would enjoy," said Jimenez on Sunday.

Later today, Barca face a Racing side who are ninth.

As usual, coach Josep Guardiola has arranged for Lionel Messi and company to fly out on the very morning of the match in order to give his players more time to rest at home with their families.

Guardiola is likely to give Thierry Henry a rest putting little Andres Iniesta in his place down the left wing.

Iniesta has not started a game for four months, since tearing a thigh muscle.

The big game tomorrow sees Real away to Villarreal, where they have lost twice in the past three seasons.

Real are top of the table on goal difference, as a result of Sunday's 5-0 slaughter of bottom team Xerez, in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored two more goals.

Ronaldo, the world record signing from Manchester United, is joint top of the scorers' chart with David Villa of Valencia, both on four goals.

Real will again be without suspended defender Pepe. - Sapa-DPA

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