La Liga heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid will want vast improvement when they host Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano respectively on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho’s Real in particular need to buck up their ideas if they are to end Barca’s three-year stranglehold on the title after dropping more points in an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Racing Santander in midweek following a shock 1-0 defeat at Levante on Sunday.
“We cannot ignore the evidence,” Real’s Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso said. “The dynamic is not good and we have to change it as soon as possible. We have to pack more punch because matches like this (at Racing) take their toll and we cannot afford to drop many points.”
Barca twice had to come from behind to rescue a point at Valencia, the early-season pace setters, who are top after four matches on 10 points. Malaga and Real Betis both have nine, although promoted Betis can move clear on 12 points if they win their game in hand at home to Real Zaragoza later on Thursday.
Barca have eight points, level with Sevilla and Levante, and Real Madrid are on seven along with Atletico and Real Sociedad.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola was relieved to emerge from Valencia’s Mestalla stadium with a point but acknowledged that there was room for improvement after Cesc Fabregas netted his fourth goal in four league matches to snatch a draw.
“Our strength of character gave us the draw,” Guardiola said. “I think that it was a fair result. Let’s learn from what we did not do so well.”
Atletico have won both their last two La Liga matches 4-0, with new striker Radamel Falcao netting five goals. The Colombian struck twice in Wednesday’s success at home to Sporting Gijon and coach Gregorio Manzano said he must continue to be the focus of the team’s offensive play.
“You would have to go a long way back in the history of Atletico Madrid to find a player who, in seven days, has created so many chances, so many in such a short period of time,” Manzano told a news conference. “He has adapted so quickly and I’m sure that he will rub shoulders with the great scorers in our league such as (Lionel) Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The team must continue working to Falcao, it’s for the rest of his team-mates to continue to maintain this constant offensive play in to the area where he is a real killer.”