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Football | Spain

Barcelona © Action Images

Early kick-off not a problem for Barca



Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba doesn't believe the combination of Spain's long journey to and from Qatar in midweek and an early kick-off against Getafe on Sunday should unduly affect the Catalans.

Sunday's fixture will be the first time Barca have played at the 12 o'clock (1100 GMT) kickoff time since it was introduced by the league at the beginning of last season.

But Alba, who was one of nine Barca players who took part in Spain's 3-1 win over Uruguay on Wednesday, doesn't believe that should be used as any excuse should the league leaders fail to extend their nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

"Getafe are a very difficult opponent. They are aggressive, have quality players and play good football. They will make things difficult for us, but the fact we are playing at 12 shouldn't be any excuse," he told Barcelona's web site.

February will be a vital month for Barca with big games against Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup and AC Milan in the Champions League to come as they try to repeat their treble-winning season of 2008/09.

But it has started perfectly with the news that Lionel Messi has extended his contract with the club untill 2018.

And Alba appreciates having the World Player of the Year on his side more than most having faced him many times with Valencia.

"February will be an awkward month with very difficult matches, but we have to maintain the same intensity in all competitions. The team is capable of doing that and has shown it in previous years.

"I can't imagine what Messi will be like in 2018, but his extension is great news for all Barca fans.

"I had the misfortune of facing him as an opponent and now I am happy to have him as a teammate. I have never seen anyone do the things that he does."

One of those who didn't travel with Spain in midweek though was Xavi as he pulled out of the squad with an ankle injury and will also miss out on Sunday.

Other than the 33-year-old, Barca have no injury worries, but Getafe have a number of key absentees particularly in defence.

Goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya is suspended as is defender Rafa and Juan Valera is also out with a back injury.

Midfielder Jaime Gavilan though believes Getafe can create an upset, especially given how many Barca players were away on international duty during the week.

"Against Barcelona there is never a right moment to say this is our chance to beat them because you never know how they are going to play," he told reporters.

"But it is true that without Xavi they are vulnerable. Many players have arrived back after long trips so why can't we create a surprise?"

Atletico Madrid meanwhile continue their pursuit of the Catalans in a Madrid derby away at Rayo Vallecano in Sunday's late game.

Rayo have been the surprise package of the season and sit just two points off a Champions League spot in seventh and Atleti boss Diego Simeone is well aware that Paco Jemez's men possess a major threat to their title chances.

Atletico will be without the suspended Diego Costa so Adrian Lopez is expected to keep his place in the side, whilst Rayo will be able to recall top-scorer Piti after he missed last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Sevilla through suspension.

Real Madrid, 16 points off the pace back in third spot, face Sevilla on Saturday ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester United in midweek.

Saturday

Mallorca v Osasuna
Celta Vigo v Valencia
Levante v Malaga
Deportivo La Coruna v Granada
Real Madrid v Sevilla

Sunday

Barcelona v Getafe
Real Zaragoza v Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano v Atletico Madrid

Monday

Real Betis v Valladolid

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