Leaders Real rattled as Barcelona close in

Back-to-back draws for leaders Real Madrid have blown the title race wide open in Spain and pursuers Barcelona, who have cut the deficit to six points from 10, will seek to crank up the pressure on Saturday.

Champions Barca could narrow the gap to three points with a win at Real Mallorca while Real host Real Sociedad two hours later.

Real's march towards a first league title in four years has stalled in the space of four days and nerves seem to be getting the better of them.

After 11 consecutive wins, Real toiled to 1-1 draws at home to Malaga last Sunday and away at Villarreal on Wednesday after conceding late free-kicks.

Jose Mourinho's side, the league's top scorers with 90 goals from 28 matches, have been finding it hard to finish off games recently and their frustration was evident after Marcos Senna's late equaliser on Wednesday.

"Madrid are scared stiff," Barcelona-based daily Sport said on Thursday, while El Pais pointed a finger at Real's coach with the headline: "Mourinho makes Madrid hysterical."

Mourinho, defensive mainstay Sergio Ramos and playmaker Mesut Ozil were all sent off in the closing stages at the Madrigal in a remarkable loss of composure that could yet have more painful consequences if the federation decides to act.

Mourinho's assistant, Rui Faria, had already been sent off for complaining earlier, his fourth red card of the season.


Referee Jose Luis Paradas Romero, who sent Mourinho off last season, also noted in his match report that Real defender Pepe had accused him of "robbery" and used unsavoury language.

No-one from Real attended the post-match news conference.

On paper Real Sociedad should not pose too much of a threat but Real need to raise their game if they are to stop the rot.

Barca have recovered from their shock 3-2 defeat at Osasuna last month to string together six consecutive wins, with La Liga's leading marksman Lionel Messi (34 goals) in top form.

The World Player of the Year has scored 17 times in his last seven games.

They travel to face a hard-running Mallorca side who are unbeaten in four outings.

"We are only going to think about our games, there are 10 left and we have to get the maximum points," Barca's Thiago Alcantara told reporters on Wednesday.

"Hope is the last thing that dies, we have to maintain our hope."

Third-placed Valencia visit Getafe on Saturday with coach Unai Emery under pressure, a 2-1 defeat to bottom club Real Zaragoza at the Mestalla on Wednesday sparked an angry reaction from home fans.