Rossi blames complacency, Messi humble
Giuseppe Rossi has blamed complacency for Villarreal's surprise struggles this season. The Yellow Submarine are used to challenging at the top of the table but they have endured a miserable season and currently sit only three points above the relegation zone.
They also flopped in Europe, failing to pick up a single point in their UEFA Champions League group, and things reached a nadir last week when they lost to bottom side Real Zaragoza. The absence of striker Rossi for six months with cruciate ligament damage has certainly not helped, but the Italy international is remaining positive, and he told newspaper El Mediterraneo: "For me this is still a great team, one of the best in the league after Barça and Madrid.
"Football is not just what you do with your feet, it is also a mental thing, and I think from the beginning we thought this season would be easy after being fourth in the previous league and reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League. Now we are trying to change this mentality, but it's hard."
Villarreal have the chance to make amends for last weekend's loss when they host Getafe on Monday, where a win would see them leapfrog their opponents. But manager Jose Francisco Molina has a lengthy injury list, with Marco Ruben, Alejandro Martinuccio, Joan Oriol and Mateo Musacchio all set to miss out.
At the other end of the table, Jose Mourinho's all-conquering Real Madrid will hope to make it 11 league victories in a row against Real Betis at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera on Saturday. But Betis full-back Nelson believes his side can cause an upset, telling AS: "I hope that the crowd comes to support us as always and that they enjoy two teams playing a great game. However, Betis is a strong team and it is very difficult to beat us at home."
Madrid remain ten points ahead of Barcelona, who head into Sunday's trip to managerless Racing Santander with plaudits ringing in their ears following yesterday's Champions League trouncing of Bayer Leverkusen. Centre of attention was Lionel Messi after he became the first player ever to score five goals in a single Champions League match, but the Argentinian was keen to play down his individual achievement.
Messi told www.uefa.com: "I have always said that it's fantastic when things come off for you and you play well, but only if you meet your aims for the match. That's what happened against Leverkusen. The team played very, very well, the performance had some beautiful moments and we scored lots of goals."
Boss Pep Guardiola was unequivocal in his declaration that the 24-year-old is the greatest of all time, saying: "He is the best. There's no-one else. We will not see another player like Messi. It's not easy to score five goals, and one day he will score six." Messi's return from a one-match domestic suspension is certainly not the news Santander's caretaker coaches Fede Castanos and Pablo Pinillos would have wanted following the departure of Juan Jose Gonzalez yesterday.
In other matches this weekend, third-placed Valencia host Real Mallorca while Levante will look to stay hot on the heels of their city rivals when they travel to fellow European hopefuls Malaga. Athletic Bilbao follow a Europa League clash with Manchester United by facing Osasuna, Espanyol host Rayo Vallecano and Granada visit Atletico Madrid. Zaragoza will look to give another lift to their survival hopes when they face Real Sociedad while Sporting Gijon, who sit only three points above them, meet Sevilla.