Los Blancos will go temporarily top if they can overcome los Manos...
Bottom of the table Zaragoza have struggled for form dreadfully since the start of the campaign and seem destined to spend a disappointing Christmas period in the relegation zone. A visit from Real Madrid on Sunday evening will be an unwelcome experience for los Manos, who are a side who need points quickly.
With one win all season, the Aragon outfit have flopped dramatically given their strong conclusion to last term, which was exactly what got them out of the kind of predicament they currently find themselves in. Already coach Jose Aurelio Gay has been given his marching orders to be replaced by Javier Aguirre, who is perhaps best known for his stint at the helm of Atletico Madrid.
There has been no instant remedy for the side from La Romareda, who were unable to overcome fellow strugglers Almeria last weekend. A 1-1 draw was no disaster, but it was a match that los Manos could really have done with winning. “It was the best outcome for our rivals,” Aguirre commented.
Looking forward to Sunday’s clash, Diogo appreciates the scale of the task at hand. “It’s a pretty tough game to play at any time,” he told Marca, aware of the particularly difficult circumstances Zaragoza presently find. “The team does not give up and the attitude is the best. When you face a great team you always want to do well.”
If los Manos take anything from this fixture, it will be an unexpected bonus.
Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side have barely broke stride after falling flat on their face in El Clasico, ploughing on with win after win after coming spectacularly undone against Barcelona. Importantly, they’ve sent a message to any doubters that their mentality is strong, and los Blancos will again be out to showcase their power in Zaragoza.
Midweek success over Auxerre in the Champions League came easily. The French side had no reply to the pace and power of los Blancos, who eased to a 4-0 victory, which came thanks to a fine hat-trick from Karim Benzema.
“This was the group that drew the most attention after the draw, but the team played well in every match and it appeared to be an easy group,” assistant boss Aitor Karanka explained to his side’s official website. “That isn't the case, however. Auxerre, for example, gave us trouble in the first leg.”
But Madrid are certainly not looking to the past, plotting their future carefully so as best to compete with Barca. They have a staggering nine matches planned in a hectic January period, which is sure to test the squad’s physical capabilities, so it is vital that they don’t slip in what would appear to be a routine fixture.
Playing with some confidence, despite the set-back of a fortnight ago, it’s difficult to see the free-scoring Blancos coming a cropper in Aragon.
Javier Aguirre has been tempted to ring the changes in his defence, with Matteo Contini and Ivan Obradovic dropping out. He has no major injury problems to cope with though.
There has been good news for los Blancos as Angel di Maria is back training with the main squad, but a host of problems remain for Jose Mourinho. Jerzy Dudek, Sami Khedira, who is banned in any case, Sergio Canales, Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Gago and Kaka are all carrying various problems.