Real Madrid aim to maintain big lead over Villarreal, Barca

April 4th, 2008 - 11:39 am ICT by admin  

(Spanish League Preview)
Madrid, April 4 (DPA) Real Madrid aim to stay well ahead of Villarreal and Barcelona atop the Spanish football league by winning away to midtable Mallorca Saturday. Real enjoy a six-point advantage over Villarreal and are seven above Barca, with eight games remaining.

Last Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Sevilla has restored confidence at the Bernabeu after an awful winter - and has relieved some of the pressure on coach Bernd Schuster.

Before the Sevilla win, the rumour mill was awash with claims that Real president Ramon Calderon was considering axing Schuster right away, and replacing him with either Michel or Miguel Angel Portugal, both former stars who are now on the coaching staff.

Now it seems that Schuster will see out the season, though whether he will avoid the fate of Fabio Capello - sacked despite winning La Liga last season - is another question.

Schuster is still without veteran striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but Pepe, Gabriel Heinze, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robinho are all fit again. “Things are much better here than a week ago,” said Heinze. “Now we just have to make sure that we continue down this road.”

Saturday’s other game is between relegation candidates Osasuna and Recreativo Huelva. On Sunday, Villarreal are away to a Sevilla side desperate to get back to winning ways after losing to Real and Atletico Madrid. Manolo Jimenez’ inconsistent side are sixth, five points adrift of the Champions League places.

In joint fourth place are Atletico - at home to Almeria - and surprise package Racing Santander, who host Deportivo La Coruna. Atletico and Santander are eight points behind third-placed Barcelona, who are at home to tricky Getafe.

The Camp Nou clash will be the perfect opportunity for Getafe coach Michael Laudrup to show his credentials as a candidate for the Barca job, given that nowadays nobody imagines that Frank Rijkaard will continue on the Barca bench after May.

Tuesday’s 1-0 win away to Schalke 04 has given Rijkaard a little breathing space, but the Camp Nou will be whistling for his head unless Getafe - who might be tired after Thursday’s UEFA Cup visit to Munich - are convincingly beaten.

Sunday’s other games are Levante-Valladolid, Zaragoza-Real Betis, Athletic Bilbao-Espanyol Barcelona and Murcia-Valencia.

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