BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona can equal its best ever Spanish league start with a sixth straight win at Sevilla on Saturday, with Atletico Madrid ready to pounce on first place if the Catalan club stumbles.
Barcelona will face a tough test at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium against a Sevilla team that is undefeated through five rounds and tied for the league's best defense after conceding only two goals.
Tito Vilanova's squad has quickly opened up an eight-point lead over Real Madrid, which plays on Sunday at home against Deportivo La Coruna.
"Eight points are significant. I like our advantage," said Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez. "Madrid can't afford any more slip ups. I like to see us so far ahead and with Madrid struggling to keep up.
"Now we have a difficult away game against Sevilla. They are a strong team."
After three of its four previous six-for-six starts— the last of which came under former coach Pep Guardiola in 2009 — Barcelona finished the season by lifting the league title.
Sevilla has already knocked off Madrid with a 1-0 home win thanks to an early goal by Piotr Trochowski and an intense defensive effort by Michel Gonzalez's team. The former Madrid player has transformed his squad from last season when it often suffered costly lapses of concentration.
Coach Vilanova will still be without center backs Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique and will likely again turn to reconverted midfielders Javier Mascherano and Alex Song.
Barcelona's improvised backline will face one of the league's best counterattacking sides led by winger Jesus Navas and fellow Spain international Alvaro Negredo.
"We can win this game. We will be playing in front of our fans, and we expect to see a full stadium," Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic said. "We are going up against the best team in the world, but I know we will make it difficult for them."