MADRID (AFP) - A week is often referred to as a
long time in politics but five days last week must have seemed like an eternity
to Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz.
First, his team crashed out of the Champions
League in Monaco and then they lost at home for the first time in the Spanish
league this season, going down 3-0 to Osasuna to hand over pole position in the
championship race to Valencia.
The question now is, can Queiroz reverse the
decline in Saturday's local derby at Atletico Madrid?
are six pages still to be read in the book of this season. I hope that they
contain stories about us getting six victories. And I am convinced that we will
win them all. I am not going to throw in the towel. Never," said Queiroz earlier
To try to get Real Madrid back on track in their
bid to end the season with a trophy, Queiroz has taken the team to the holiday
resort of La Manga.
However, most of the players have bitterly
resented having to make the excursion.
"If the club wanted to concentrate our minds,
then they should have just talked to us (in Madrid). That's what we are all
thinking," said Real's Brazilian left back Roberto Carlos, apparently speaking
for the squad.
Real will go into action without the Spanish
fist division's leading scorer Ronaldo, although the reigning Spanish champions
hope the Brazilian World Cup winner will be back to face his former club
Barcelona in a week's time.
Queiroz hasn't yet indicated how he intends to
replace Ronaldo, who is suffering from a slight hamstring strain.
One option would be to bring in Santiago Solari
on the left flank and use Raul Gonzalez in his former role as the main target
Another would be to give Javier Portillo, who is
is rumoured to be interesting several English Premiership clubs, a rare start.
Atletico coach Gergorio Manzano has his own
problems at the front with his Spanish international striker Fernando Torres
Demis Nikolaidis is the likely replacement as
Atletico seek to add to further their campaign for a return to Europe next
Atletico currently lie seventh but only goal
difference separates them from Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao, who occupy the two
slots above them which will qualify clubs for the UEFA Cup.
Leaders Valencia have 69 points from 31 games,
two ahead of Real, and will be looking to defend their position at home to Real
Sociedad on Sunday.
Coach Rafa Benitez is expected to recall both
Vicente Rodriguez and Mista Ferrer, who were rested during Valencia's 2-1 win
over Bordeaux on Thursday, which saw them into the UEFA Cup semi-finals.
"However, every team has its weak points and we
are going to try to find out where Valencia are ticklish," warned Sociedad's
Spanish international playmaker Xabi Alonso, although the Basques will be
without their suspended striker Darko Kovacevic.
Champions League semi-finalists Deportivo La
Coruna and Catalan giants Barcelona are in a race for third place, and maybe
higher if Real Madrid continue to stumble, with both teams on 60 points.
Deportivo are ahead on goal difference and play
host to Valladolid on Saturday while Barca host Malaga on Sunday.
Barcelona have gone 14 games unbeaten, a run
which was extended in lacklustre fashion by a 1-1 draw at Real Betis on
"We threw away a golden opportunity to get three
points and it is not something I want to see again," said Barca coach Frank
Rijkaard, who will welcome back Ronaldinho after a one-match ban.