Top spot under threat for Neymar-less Barcelona

MADRID. Barcelona will have to do without both Neymar and Lionel Messi as they try to ensure they finish 2013 at the top of La Liga when they visit Getafe on Sunday.

MADRID. Barcelona will have to do without both Neymar and Lionel Messi as they try to ensure they finish 2013 at the top of La Liga when they visit Getafe on Sunday.

Neymar had just hit top form in front of goal for the first time since his summer arrival from Santos with six goals in Barca’s previous three games.

However, the Brazilian has already travelled back to his homeland for an early Christmas break after picking up a suspension with his fifth yellow card of the season in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Villarreal.

With Messi also still recovering from his hamstring tear, the focus will be on Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez to score the goals needed to keep Barca on top.

Pedro has seen his opportunities diminished by the arrival of Neymar and Sanchez’s good form this season, but the Spanish international has stressed his intention to fight for his place in Gerardo Martino’s side.

“When you play less you don’t necessarily feel less important, but it is true that it is a different feeling when you don’t get so many minutes on the field,” he said.

Barca did receive a boost on Thursday with the news that Andres Iniesta is to sign a new deal that will keep him at the club until 2018.

And with Fabregas set to play in the false nine role, Iniesta should be restored to the starting line-up in midfield alongside Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets.

Getafe will also face Barca in the next round of the Copa del Rey as both sides eased through their fourth-round ties in midweek.

Given Barca’s lack of goalscoring options, Atletico Madrid have a great chance to be top of the league at Christmas for the first time since 1995 as they host Levante at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.

Atletico trail Barca only on goals scored and will move top as long as they better Martino’s men’s result at Getafe. Real Madrid also face a tricky encounter to close the year as they travel to Valencia.

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