Hercules eye double over Barca

MADRID - The chances of lightning striking twice are minimal but that is the faint hope promoted Hercules hang on to as they seek the unlikeliest of doubles over La Liga leaders Barcelona on Saturday.

The modest club from Alicante are the only side to have beaten Pep Guardiola's champions this season, when they recorded a shock 2-0 victory at the Nou Camp in September.

The two-goal hero that day was new signing Nelson Valdez, and the Paraguay striker has gone on to notch seven so far this campaign, forming a productive partnership with French striker David Trezeguet, the club's top scorer with nine.

"It isn't impossible to beat Barca," Valdez told sports daily AS. "I think we have a better chance of winning here than we did there because we are playing in front of our own fans. We could spring a surprise."

Hercules are 12th in the standings and have been kept away from the relegation places by their impressive home form. They have won their last four league games at the Rico Perez, scoring 13 times.

Barca are on a roll, however, and have yet another record in sight. They are seeking their 15th consecutive league victory when they could match the La Liga-best mark set by Real Madrid in the 1960-61 season.

Barca hold a four-point lead over their great rivals Real, who are in second, and thumped Almeria 5-0 in a King's Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday. Real had a tougher time, battling to a 1-0 first leg win away to holders Sevilla, but the two look on course for a cup final meeting.


Karim Benzema scored Madrid's goal, his second this week, reminding his unconvinced coach Jose Mourinho of what he is capable of on the day Emmanuel Adebayor landed in the Spanish capital to complete his loan signing from Manchester City.

The Togolese striker will probably need some time to adapt before before thrown straight into the fray.

After the hostile atmosphere of the Sanchez Pizjuan, Real travel to another cauldron on Sunday for what is usually a bruising encounter for visitors at struggling Osasuna's Reyno de Navarra stadium.

Third-placed Villarreal, who are nine behind Real, visit fifth-placed Espanyol on Sunday in what promises to be an attractive match between two of the best footballing sides in La Liga outside of the top two.