Real target derby win, Barça face Getafe
Real Madrid defender Raul Albiol admits Wednesday's derby against Atletico has taken on a new level of importance after Barcelona took another chunk out of their lead at the top of La Liga this weekend.
Barça recorded their ninth successive league win on Saturday with a 4-1 victory at Real Zaragoza, and they received a further boost 24 hours later when Real were held to a goalless draw at home by Valencia. That marked a third draw in five matches for Jose Mourinho's men, who have seen their lead at the top whittled away to just four points.
Barça could have that down to a single point tomorrow with a home win over Getafe, putting even more pressure on Real for their city derby against Atletico. Albiol is aware things are getting tight at the top. "We played Valencia at home and expected to win," he said on www.realmadrid.com. "We had chances and failed to score. The match became crazy, but we have a four point lead and that's important."
Real have not lost to Atletico home or away in over 12 years, but Albiol is not expecting it to be easy at the Vicente Calderon. "We must now think about Wednesday's match. This week will be tough," he said. "We expect Atletico Madrid to be aggressive and motivated to win. We're going to concentrate hard to take three points. We have to win at the Calderon after drawing last night."
Barça defender Adriano, meanwhile, sees no reason why the Catalans cannot pip their rivals to the title following their stunning run of form. "We've always believed that we'd have a chance at the title and now we're only four points behind them," said the Brazilian on www.as.com. "If we continue on this path, we'll be able to win."
Atletico and Getafe both have European aspirations. The teams are level on 42 points, just one behind sixth-placed Osasuna in the last qualifying place for the UEFA Europa League.
Valencia, who are looking to finish third in the standings for the third successive season, will aim to end a run of four winless matches when they take on Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday. Los Che are just one point ahead of city rivals Levante, who travel to Sporting Gijon on the same day.
Levante kept up their hopes of a top-three finish, and an automatic place in the UEFA Champions League, with a 2-0 win over Atletico at the weekend. Malaga are also fighting hard for third place and they face struggling Villarreal on Thursday.
In other matches on Thursday, Sevilla will be looking to respond to their weekend defeat to Athletic Bilbao when they entertain Zaragoza, while relegation-haunted Racing Santander meet Real Mallorca. European hopefuls Osasuna and Espanyol will do battle at the Reyno de Navarra stadium tomorrow, the same day Real Sociedad face Real Betis. Granada come up against Bilbao on Wednesday.