Los Blancos know they must overcome los Rojillos if they are to keep pace with Barcelona...
Times are tough for Osasuna, who have dropped alarmingly towards the relegation zone over the last two month. Jose Antonio Camacho has failed to lead his team to a single victory in eight matches, and though they have picked up a smattering of draws, these have not been enough to keep the Navarre side away from danger.
Defeat last weekend in Almeria was particularly damaging, lifting the southern side within touching distance of los Rojillos. Only one point better off than the teams in the drop zone, the pressure is truly mounting in the Basque region.
“We made mistakes that cost us expensively,” Camacho, a former Real Madrid boss, explained after last weekend’s reverse.
Nevertheless, there is a degree of optimism in the camp that something positive can be taken from the weekend’s fixture. “We’ll have more of a chance to beat Madrid than we did with Barcelona,” Javier Camanus told the press, referring to the recent 3-0 defeat given to his side by the league-leading Catalans. “We had our opportunities, but in the end there was a clear victory.”
Recent form dictates that los Rojillos approach this fixture as great underdogs, though the north eastern corner of Spain is never hospitable to los Blancos, and roared on by a partisan crowd, the hosts will carry an extra spring in their step for this extremely difficult fixture.
Keep On Winning
Real Madrid continue to cling gamely onto the coattails of Barcelona as they search for their first silverware in three seasons. Jose Mourinho’s men have maintained a startling pace throughout this campaign, but they haven’t quite been able to match the remarkable consistency of their Catalan rivals, who enjoy a four point advantage in La Liga.
Barca have also been able to kill off their Copa del Rey semi-final tie at the first attempt, something that los Blancos couldn’t quite do when they met Sevilla on Wednesday night at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. A fine goal from Karim Benzema gave los Merengues the edge, but a 1-0 lead is not decisive, even if they are going back to the Bernabeu, where Mourinho’s men have been flawless since the Portuguese took over.
“We had to be very careful against Sevilla because they are a good team with a lot of great offensive players,” Iker Casillas explained after the midweek success. “The important thing for us is winning. We will now have to turn our attention to the league and taking on Osasuna, and then think about the second leg of the tie.”
Only four times this season have los Blancos slipped in the league, and on each of these occasions they were playing away from home. Mallorca and Levante ground out early season draws against a Madrid side still fine tuning, but a recent 1-1 tie on the road against Almeria was a more concerning result, particularly since the southerners nearly snatched a win. There is no margin for error on Sunday.
Sergio Fernandez suffered a knee problem last weekend, but an MRI scan earlier this week showed it to be relatively minor. He is a doubt for the weekend. Nacho Monreal, Ruper and Alvaro Cejudo are still out.
On the plus side for los Rojillos, Walter Pandiani has trained normally this week and should have a role to play. Javad Nekounam and Masoud Shojaei are back training after Asian Cup duty with Iran.
Emmanuel Adebayor has indicated his desire to play in Sunday’s match after signing from Manchester City on loan this week. On the other hand, Mahamadou Diarra has been allowed to leave for Monaco.
In terms of injuries, los Blancos are again without Jerzy Dudek, Pepe and Gonzalo Higuain.