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With 19 matches played each in the Primera Division, takes a look at the most difficult games for Spain's two biggest clubs in the race for the league title in 2011-12

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

It is more of a marathon than a sprint. La Liga started back in September but has only just reached its halfway stage. And with 19 rounds of matches still left to play, there are plenty of reasons for optimism for each of the two title candidates.

Barcelona and Real Madrid go head-to-head in the battle for the Primera Division once again and, while the Catalans have claimed the last three league championships, Jose Mourinho's men take a five-point lead into the second half of the current campaign.

Madrid are now favourites to claim the title for the first time since 2007-08, but the capital club still face a tough trip to Camp Nou in late April in a clash which may yet decide the outcome of the title in 2011-12.

Madrid proved earlier this week that they can go to Camp Nou and get a result, although Barca only needed to avoid defeat in the sides' Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg in the Catalan capital on Wednesday, which ended in a 2-2 draw. A virtual title decider in April is another scenario altogether and would represent the biggest of tests for both teams.

There, given their tremendous success in recent years, Barca would surely be favourites to win the three points. And Pep Guardiola's men have a slightly easier run-un, too.

BARCELONA & REAL MADRID |  Difficult fixtures still to play
Valencia (home)
Feb 19
 Atletico Madrid (away)
Feb 25
 Sevilla (away)
Mar 17
 Real Madrid (home)
Apr 21
 Espanyol (home)
May 5

Getafe (away)
Feb 4
Osasuna (away)
Apr 1
Atletico Madrid (away) Apr 10
Barcelona (away)
Apr 21
Athletic Bilbao (away) May 2

Both teams have to travel to a revitalised Atletico Madrid, with that fixture likely to represent a complicated clash for both sides; Barcelona have a poor record at the Vicente Calderon in recent seasons while Diego Simeone's men will be desperate to defeat their city rivals.

In early February, Mourinho's side must travel to another Madrid club, Getafe, the only team to beat Barca in the league in 2011-12 so far.

Guardiola's side also have a local derby to play, at home to Espanyol, close to the end of the season, but that comes - crucially - at Camp Nou, with the two sides having already played out a 1-1 draw at Cornella early this year.

And in March, the Catalans travel to Sevilla, the only team to pick up a point at Camp Nou so far this term, while Madrid are away to Athletic Bilbao in early May, in what is undoubtedly a potential pitfall for Mourinho's men.

At the moment, even though they lost at home to Barca in December, Madrid have the edge due to their superior record on the road, with the Catalans having dropped 11 points away from home so far this season.

Should that continue, Mourinho's men will be champions. But there are likely to be many twists and turns yet as the title race hots up, starting this Saturday as Madrid host Zaragoza and Barca travel to Villarreal. This season's La Liga could yet be a game of two halves.

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