Ramos wins in Real league debut
© AFP

An early goal for Gonzalo Higuain was enough to give Real Madrid a 1-0 victory over Valencia on Saturday and the first win for Juande Ramos in La Liga as coach. Real bounced back from the 2-0 defeat in the clasico against Barcelona last weekend to score after just three minutes with Higuain firing home after good work from Arjen Robben.

Robben was the key player in the early stages of the match and a constant threat, setting up Rafael van de Vaart who hit the post and then he himself saw a shot cleared off the line after he had rounded the goalkeeper. Valencia gradually came back into the match and keeper Iker Casillas made a series of stops from David Villa.

In the second half Real, were hanging on with Casillas parrying a Ruben Baraja strike on to a post but the pressure eased mid-way through the half following the expulsion of Carlos Marchena for his second yellow card. Real had chances to add to their lead but Higuain and Juan Guti in particular missed excellent chances.

Later Atletico Madrid face Espanyol with their confidence sky high after 14 matches without defeat as they have the UEFA Champions League in their sights. "For us this is the most important game of the year. We have to continue climbing and secure ourselves a place in the top four, I do not want Espanyol to stop us from achieving that," coach Javier Aguirre said.  For Espanyol it is a very different story and it will be a year that the club will happily forget as they have won only seven games in the last 12 months.

On Sunday, Barcelona face a Villarreal side who will be looking for the visit from the leaders to give them extra impetus as they try and bounce back from a poor run of form. Barca's Rafa Marquez has been ruled out with a thigh strain while Villarreal will be without the injured Javi Venta and Joseba Llorente who is suspended. Sevilla hope to keep on the trail of the leaders with a visit to struggling Mallorca who have fallen into the relegation zone and coach Gregorio Manzano's position is becoming increasingly insecure.