La Liga elite wary of Copa minnows
Sevilla coach Marcelino Garcia Toral has warned his side not to underestimate third-tier San Roque in the first leg of their Copa del Rey fourth-round tie tomorrow. Three La Liga teams played their first-leg matches last week and enjoyed mixed fortunes against lower-league opposition. Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao earned 1-0 wins at L'Hospitalet and Real Oviedo respectively, while Atletico Madrid went down 2-1 at Albacete.
Marcelino knows his team cannot afford to take the Segunda Division B outfit lightly when they go head to head at Ciudad de Lepe. "If we look at the cup games already played by La Liga teams, one lost and two won by one goal," he said on www.sevillafc.es.
"We're not going to take things any easier. We will go there with the utmost respect for a team that will put all its effort into defeating Sevilla. We must be extremely attentive and intense to get a good result because if we do not we will take a tumble."
Sevilla, who lost 1-0 at Levante on Saturday, welcome Real Madrid to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan this weekend, but Marcelino insists his players will not be distracted tomorrow. "We are mature enough and intelligent enough to look at each situation on its own. We should approach this game as if it was a one-legged tie," he added. "We begin this competition tomorrow and we should put all our focus on obtaining the victory."
Jose Mourinho's Madrid will be looking to make a swift return to winning ways when they begin the defence of their cup crown at Ponferradina, after their 15-match winning streak was halted by Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Saturday. Espanyol head to Celta Vigo buoyed by last night's 4-2 victory over Atletico Madrid, but with Mauricio Pochettino lamenting the fact his side have less than 48 hours between matches.
"The mood in the squad is very good, because the cup is a tournament that excites us all and this year we will see what we can do," he said on www.rcdespanyol.com. "But there are some things that are out of our control and that undermine the potential of our team, who competed on Sunday night and has to play again on Tuesday."
La Liga's bottom team, Real Zaragoza, will be aiming to ease the pressure on coach Javier Aguirre with a positive result at Alcorcon. Yesterday's 1-0 home defeat against Real Mallorca extended Zaragoza's winless run to eight games, but they will not expect to have it all their own way at Santo Domingo against minnows who famously knocked Real Madrid out of the competition at this stage two years ago.
Villarreal will also be hoping the cup will prove a welcome distraction from what has been a nightmare first half of the season. The Yellow Submarine, who visit Mirandes tomorrow, crashed out of the Champions League after losing all six group games and slipped to 17th in La Liga yesterday following a 1-1 home draw against Real Sociedad. Mallorca host Sporting Gijon tomorrow in one of four all-top-flight encounters, the others seeing Getafe play Malaga, Racing Santander play Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad tackle Granada.
Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez is expecting a tricky encounter against third-tier Cadiz, with whom he spent a season on loan in 2007/08. "It will not be an easy game," he said on www.valenciacf.es. "It's a team that aspires to move up the leagues and have for many years been in the first and second divisions. The fans know it - they are going to push us hard and will be a very difficult match."
He added: "I spent an important season of my career there - it helped me make the jump to the top flight. I will always be grateful to the club and the city." Elsewhere tomorrow, Levante visit Deportivo La Coruna, Osasuna travel to Almeria and Real Betis make the trip to Cordoba.