Real target year-ending top spot
Real Madrid go to Sevilla on Saturday looking to hit back from their shattering home loss to bitter rivals Barcelona last weekend and finish the year top of La Liga with their title challenge reignited.
Barcelona's victory in the Bernabeu means the two sides are equal at the top on 37 points, seven ahead of third-placed Valencia. However, Madrid have played one game less and will be looking for maximum points in the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Away to fifth place Sevilla is not the easiest place for Los Merengues to pick themselves up after the 3-1 defeat to Barcelona, but Madrid will want to widen the gap at the top over the Catalans who face Santos in the FIFA Club World Cup final in Japan on Saturday.
President Florentino Perez was quick to back his staff this week in the wake of last Saturday's game. "One of my best decisions since I became president has been to bring in Jose Mourinho. He has a great virtue in that he never gives up no matter how difficult the task facing him," he said. "The defeat last week hurts everybody but only makes us more motivated and stronger, nobody likes losing but confidence is high."
Madrid already returned to winning ways in the Spanish Cup on Tuesday with a 2-0 away victory at second division Ponferradina. And Brazilian midfielder Kaka was clear this week that a victory in Seville can put their campaign back on the right path.
"After losing the Clasico it was important to win well at Ponferradina, now we go to Sevilla motivated because we know we can go clear at the top of the league," he said.
For Sevilla midfielder Manu del Moral there is no better way to come back from last weekend's defeat at Levante than to beat Madrid. "They are one of the best teams in the world, to beat them we have to do almost everything well and be careful not to leave too much space because they are deadly on the counter-attack," he declared.
Madrid's Argentine midfielder Angel Di Maria did not train on Thursday due to a family bereavement but is expected to be available, Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho is their only unavailable squad member, out with a long term injury.
Sevilla will welcome back talismanic centre forward Freddie Kanoute from injury. He proved his fitness scoring in the 1-0 away victory to San Roque in the Spanish Cup in midweek.
Third-placed Valencia face sixth-placed Malaga at home on Sunday in a clash where both teams are desperate to get their seasons back on track. UEFA Champions League elimination at Chelsea followed by defeat at Real Betis last week means Valencia need a victory to stay in touch with the top two.
Big-spending Malaga have dropped down the table after failing to win in two and need points to enhance their Champions League aspirations. They trail Valencia by six points and Levante, in fourth, by five.
Levante face a much-improved Mallorca who sit in 11th and are unbeaten in five league games with newly-appointed coach Joaquin Caparros slowly propelling the Balearic side up the table.