Real ready for derby, Barça playing for Abidal
Real Madrid will be in buoyant mood heading into Saturday's derby showdown with Atletico Madrid after finally ending their run of early UEFA Champions League exits.
Real, European champions a record nine times, had been dumped out at the last-16 stage for the last six successive years but they ended that streak in style after eliminating Lyon 4-1 on aggregate last night to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004.
That would have been a huge relief for Real but Jose Mourinho's men cannot celebrate that achievement for long as they face another big match this weekend when they make the short trip to the Vicente Calderon.
Real are firm favourites for the clash having not lost to their neighbours either home or away since 1999, while they have picked up 19 points from a possible 21 since losing to Osasuna, helping them keep the pressure on Primera Division leaders Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who returned to the Real line-up against Lyon after missing two games with a hamstring strain, said of the Atletico match: "We need to continue our good run. We're confident. Beating Atletico is a priority, as well as that a derby is a derby. It will be difficult, but I'm confident of winning."
Talking about his side's European progress, the Portugal international added in AS: "It's a great joy, we are very happy. It's going to give us confidence and morale, and we need to continue like that."
Atletico are not in bad form themselves, Los Rojiblancos climbing up to seventh place on the back of a five-match unbeaten run in La Liga - having previously lost seven of eight competitive matches.
Forlan fighting for badge
Regarding his side's poor recent record against Real, Atletico striker Diego Forlan said: "All streaks are broken. There are no favourites and anything can happen on the pitch. We've already defeated Barcelona by playing complete games and we'll have to defend really well against Madrid. We have a badge and a shirt to defend."
Real cut Barça's lead at the summit back to five points last weekend but Mourinho's side could be eight points adrift by the time they take the field on Saturday as the Catalan giants are in action against Getafe at the Camp Nou earlier in the evening.
Barça, who are unbeaten in 26 league games, will be hoping to defeat Getafe not only for their title hopes but also for defender Eric Abidal, who this week was diagnosed as having a liver tumour. Midfielder Xavi said: "We'll try to win and dedicate it to Abi and his family."
Coach Pep Guardiola could have other absentees to deal with as well with several players nursing problems this week, including Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and Carles Puyol. Saturday's other match pits Real Mallorca against Real Zaragoza.
The remaining seven fixtures are on Sunday, with the big two matches focusing on the hunt for European spots as third-placed Valencia host eighth-placed Sevilla and stuttering Villarreal, in fourth, travel to sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao.
There is also an important game at the foot of the table when Sporting Gijon will try to increase the three-point gap between themselves and 18th-placed Almeria.
Bottom club Malaga will hope to build on last week's morale-boosting victory over Real Sociedad when they take on an Espanyol side who are fifth but have lost their last three away matches, all against teams in the relegation fight.
Also, improving Levante go to Deportivo La Coruna, second-bottom Hercules host Osasuna and Real Sociedad make the short trip to Racing Santander.