Real Madrid return to Liga battle after Euro failure

March 6th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by admin  

Madrid, March 6 (DPA) After Wednesday’s meltdown in football’s European Champions League at home to AS Roma, Real Madrid will now have to return to the battle to retain their Spanish Liga football title. They will have to put Europe out of their minds and again concentrate on maintaining their five-point lead over Barcelona.

Easier said than done. The moral, psychological and physical scars of Wednesday’s defeat will take some time to heal. And Saturday, their opponents are an Espanyol side desperate to move up into the Champions League zone.

Espanyol are fifth, just two points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid. In October, they beat Real 2-1 at home, the first of the whites’ five league defeats.

Real will be without injured Dutchmen Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, as well as Marcelo, Javier Saviola, Michel Salgado and Christoph Metzelder.

In addition, Sergio Ramos is suspended, as he was against Roma.

Later Saturday, Atletico are away to crisis club Zaragoza. Zaragoza’s fourth coach of a torrid season, Manolo Vilanova, will be making a tense debut. His new team are joint third from bottom and in big trouble.

Vilanova - formerly of third division Huesca - has taken over from Javier Irureta, who quit Monday after just six games in charge.

“It’s very important that we get a good result on Saturday … otherwise the situation will be very difficult,” said the inexperienced Vilanova Wednesday.

Sunday’s big game will be Barcelona at home to Villarreal.

Barca will be without new idol Lionel Messi, who tore his left hamstring in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Glasgow Celtic.

Villarreal are third, seven points behind Barca.

Sunday’s other games all have relegation significance, with troubled Valencia at home to Deportivo Coruna and Betis away to in-form Racing Santander.

Osasuna play hosts to high-flying Almeria, while Valladolid go to Bilbao and Mallorca face Recreativo Huelva.

Bottom team Levante are away to Sevilla - another team in a flat mood after crashing out of Europe - while second-from-bottom Murcia are at home to Getafe.

Murcia, who have not scored in six games, are hoping that Getafe will be tired after a Thursday UEFA Cup clash away to Benfica.

Defeat in Getafe would definitely spell the sack for Murcia coach Lucas Alcaraz, who has been the proverbial “Dead Man Walking” for weeks now.

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