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La Liga weekend preview

Barcelona return to Primera Division action this weekend buoyed by Neymar's superb Champions League hat-trick against Celtic.

Last Updated: 13/12/13 at 08:26 Post Comment

Neymar: Delighted with his hat-trick against Celtic

Neymar: Delighted with his hat-trick against Celtic

With Lionel Messi sidelined through injury, extra pressure has been heaped on the Brazil international signed from Santos during the summer.

Neymar certainly is not wilting under the spotlight and on Wednesday capped a fine performance with three goals in Barcelona's 6-1 demolition of Celtic.

"I needed a match like this," the 21-year-old said. "I hope it continues.

"I'll save the match ball so that my team-mates can sign it. I'm very pleased that I scored a hat trick in the Champions League, we played really well, and that's what is important."

The win against Celtic and last week's 4-1 defeat of Cartagena in the Copa del Rey have been the ideal response to shock back-to-back defeats.

After losing to Ajax in the Champions League, Barcelona fell to their first league defeat of the season at Athletic Bilbao on December 1.

Now comes a clash with fifth-placed Villarreal - another match in which Neymar could well be they key for Tata Martino's men.

"It was one of the most complete games we've played," the Barca boss said of the Celtic win. "There was good pressure, intensity and we played well.

"Neymar needed a couple of minutes to adapt from his position on the wing to the centre.

"The goal gave him confidence and from there he showed his repertoire.

"I'm amazed at his level of commitment to the team. It's strange in players that are as good as him."

Barcelona head into the weekend top of the standings but level on points with ever-impressive Atletico Madrid, who host Valencia on Sunday evening.

Diego Simeone's side defeated Porto 2-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday to hammer home their position as Group G winners, but goalscorer Raul Garcia is not yet thinking about the knockout stages.

"Up next is Valencia, another tough game," he said. "It is meeting back here at home.

"We must come back and win to stay up the top. We can forget about the Champions League for a few months."

Atletico could go into the match level on points with city rivals Real Madrid, as they travel to struggling Osasuna the day before.

Malaga welcome Getafe to La Rosaleda and Rayo Vallecano face Granada in Saturday's other fixtures, while the early Sunday kick-off sees America take on Espanyol.

Recently-appointed Juan Carlos Garrido will be hoping to lead bottom-placed Real Betis to victory at Real Socieded, before Sevilla take on high-flying Athletic Bilbao.

Friday's fixture sees Levante hoping to end a five-match losing streak in all competitions against Elche, while Real Valladolid play Celta Vigo on Monday.

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