MADRID, Spain, November 26 – Real Madrid and Barcelona resume their own private battle at the top of La Liga on Saturday, Real entertaining city rivals Atletico Madrid, while Barcelona visit the outskirts of the capital city to take on struggling Getafe.
Madrid will look to defend their three-point lead over Barcelona by stretching their current run of 12 consecutive wins against their long-suffering neighbour. Real’s recent record against Atletico is not bad either, they have not lost to their rivals since 1999 when Atletico won 3-1 in the Santiago Bernabeu.
Since then 15 victories and six draws have ensured it is Real who hold the bragging rights in the city.
Brazilian full-back Marcelo should be back in contention for Madrid after being unable to train most of the week after picking up a slight knock in last Sunday’s league win at Valencia.
He resumed full training on Thursday but his compatriot Kaka and Alvaro Arbeloa have not trained properly all week and are expected to be rested.
Madrid’s strong squad is certainly not lacking depth. That was proven in midweek in the Champions League when coach Jose Mourinho took the opportunity to rest several players and the team still finished convincing 6-0 victors over Dianamo Zagreb.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas and Portuguese centre-half Pepe were all unused in that game and are expected to return against Atletico.
Mourinho made the point that Atletico were free from Europa League commitments this week and he took advantage of his team alrady having qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League to ring the changes against Dinamo.
For Atletico, under fire coach Gregorio Manzano will take his team on the short daunting trip to the north side of the city with an impressive record in the Bernabeu.
With four wins in fourteen games there as a coach, including a 5-1 win with Mallorca in 2003, Manzano has the pedigree and experience to get a result.
However Atletico, currently in 9th position and 15 points behind Real, have yet to win away this season scoring only twice in five games.
Atletico’s Brazilian midfielder Diego Ribas, on a season-long loan from Wolfsburg, has been one of the few highlights in Atletico’s campaign so far and he is clear that the team will be up for the occasion.
“The Bernabeu is the ideal place to make our point”, he said before going into detail about how Atletico can do that.
“We can’t go there desperate for victory. If we are defending for 90 minutes they will score against us at some stage, we play for a big club so we have to think bigger than that,” he said.
“We have to forget those 12 years without a win, it motivates us the fact that after so much time we can put that bad run to bed,” he added.
Barcelona will know what Madrid have done when they run out at Getafe in the late game on Saturday.
After a superb 3-2 victory on Wednesday night in the San Siro against AC Milan to guarantee they top their Champions League group, the challenge of strugglers Getafe should not prove too much of a problem.
However, Getafe coach Luis Garcia sees his team causing problems for the Catalans.
“We can surprise them, the feeling in the team is we are strong and we believe we can get a point or three,” he said.
Third place Valencia are also in Madrid on Saturday night at the city’s fourth club Rayo Vallecano.
Fresh from a 7-0 thrashing of Genk in the Champions League, ‘Los Che’ will be looking to keep pace with Madrid and Barca, whom they trail by seven and four points respectively.
Rayo Vallecano v Valencia (1700 GMT), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (1900 GMT), Getafe v Barcelona (2100 GMT)
Real Betis v Real Sociedad (1100 GMT), Levante v Sporting Gijon (1500 GMT), Mallorca v Racing Santander (1700 GMT), Espanyol v Osasuna (1700 GMT),
Athletic Bilbao v Granada (1845 GMT), Zaragoza v Sevilla (2030GMT)
Malaga v Villarreal (2000 GMT)