Real fall nine points adrift

Real Madrid trail Barcelona by nine points going into next Saturday's "El Clasico" at Camp Nou after the double champions fell to a 4-3 home defeat to Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Real came from 3-1 down to level at 3-3 but Renato headed the winner four minutes from time to sink ten-man Real, who had Arjen Robben sent off on 77 minutes. Real coach Bernd Schuster knew defeat in Barcelona will leave his team a staggering 12 points behind their arch-rivals. Dutch winger Robben will miss the Barcelona clash through suspension.

"There is no question that Barcelona are on fire at the moment," Schuster said. "I can't talk of winning at Camp Nou at the moment. We just have to think about making a game of it. Things didn't go our way tonight but not everything is bad luck. Their first two goals were bad marking from set-pieces."

Real got off to a nightmare start conceding after just three minutes when the usually reliable goalkeeper Iker Casillas flapped at a cross. Adriano was at the backpost to accept the Christmas gift bundling the ball home. Captain Raul equalised on 18 minutes with a well-timed glancing header from a precise Guti cross. Real looked threatening but their defence looked frail and the lanky Koffi Ndri Romaric headed in a corner three minutes after the equaliser to make it 2-1.

Even though Sevilla, who were trounced 3-0 by Barcelona in their last match, were without their top striker Luis Fabiano through suspension, they were causing untold problems and struck again on 38 minutes. Renato saw his shot blocked and the ball fell to Frederic Kanoute, slotted the ball into the corner. The home fans, donning rain coats to combat the torrential rain in Madrid, jeered their side at the interval. Barcelona crushed title rivals Valencia 4-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday and now sit six points clear of Villarreal and nine ahead of Real.

Schuster took off Rafael van der Vaart for compatriot Roysten Drenthe at half-time to try and give the team more width. Higuain scored a brilliant individual goal, his 10th of the season, rifling in a shot on 66 minutes to get his team back in the game. Gago headed in the equaliser two minutes later after some slack marking. But Renato was wide open to score the winner on 84 minutes to inflict Real's first league home defeat since March 23, when they lost, 3-2, to Valencia. Barcelona crushed title rivals Valencia 4-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday and now sit six points clear of Villarreal and nine ahead of Real.

Espanyol coach Jose Manuel Esnal, better known as "Mane," ended a run of four straight league defeats with a 1-1 draw at Real Betis but the club are still in the bottom three. Mane, best remembered for guiding tiny Alaves to the 2001 UEFA Cup final where they lost to Liverpool, replaced Bartolome Marquez last weekend after Espanyol failed to collect a point from their last four matches.

Recreativo Huelva registered only their second win of the season to move off the bottom with a 3-2 win over Real Mallorca. Javi Fuego scored a 53rd minute winner as Recre twice came from behind to triumph and Osasuna replace them at the foot of the table. "In our current circumstances it was difficult to go behind twice and come back with three goals away from home," Recre coach Lucas Alcaraz said. "There are always things to improve but the most important thing is the victory."

Osasuna, a point behind Recre, only had themselves to blame after throwing away a 3-0 lead against Valladolid who fought back to level at 3-3.  Numancia, the only team to beat Barcelona in the league this season, surged out of the bottom three with a 2-1 home win over Almeria.