Real Madrid resume their chase of Primera Liga leaders Barcelona against Malaga this weekend with defender Christoph Metzelder urging his side not to allow Pep Guardiola’s treble-chasers even the smallest respite.
Madrid went into the international break on the back of a stunning run of league form that had seen them pick up 37 from a possible 39 points, with only a home draw against Atletico Madrid blotting the copybook. Despite that however, Juande Ramos’ side still remain six points behind Barca and with only 10 games left, the reigning champions know it is vital to keep the heat up on their arch rivals – especially as Barca, unlike Madrid, are also still involved in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
“For us the situation is easy, we have to win all the games and we cannot relax,” said Metzelder. “They (Barca) also have to slip up. Now they have midweek games coming up in the Champions League and Copa del Rey and because of that there is a situation in which we can take advantage if they drop points. But first we have to win our games.”
In the last weekend before the international matches Barca smashed six goals without reply past an in-form Malaga side who could have climbed into the top five with a victory.
Metzelder was keen to lower expectations of a similar scoreline in favour of Madrid this weekend though, saying:
“Barcelona won this match with ease but it will be different on Saturday. They (Malaga) have shown they have quality and we hope we are ready to face them. We’ve spent many years in football and we know that a 6-0 defeat one week won’t affect the following game. Also, they will try to show their fans their best side. It will be difficult for us but we must focus on our game and we have to show our quality.”
Barca look to have the easier of the two fixtures on paper as they travel to ninth-placed Real Valladolid, a side they also thumped 6-0 earlier this season. Valladolid coach Jose Luis Mendilibar said of Guardiola’s team: “If they are at 100% it is almost impossible to beat them.”
In third spot, Sevilla travel to local rivals Recreativo Huelva boosted by the news that star striker Fredi Kanoute has committed his future to the club by signing a contract extension until 2012. The 31-year-old Mali international took his career tally with Sevilla to 89 goals with a hat-trick in the recent 4-1 demolition of Valladolid, leaving him fourth on the overall list for the club and just one behind Davor Suker as the most prolific foreigner.
Also celebrating new deals this week are veteran Villarreal duo Robert Pires and Javi Venta, who have penned one-year extensions that will keep them at El Madrigal until 2010. It is not such good news for Villarreal midfielder Marcos Senna though as he may miss Saturday’s trip to Almeria after picking up a new injury while on international duty with Spain.
At the other end of the table, bottom club Espanyol are running out of games to save themselves as they play host to Europe-chasing Deportivo La Coruna needing to make up a gap of eight points to 17th-placed Recre.
Also in trouble are 16th-placed Real Betis and second-bottom Numancia, who meet at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera this weekend.
Elsewhere, freefalling Athletic Bilbao are home to improving Real Mallorca, Osasuna travel to Atletico Madrid, Sporting Gijon face Racing Santander and Getafe are at Valencia.