Real Madrid president Florentino Perez
demanded that his players didn't lose heart this week in the midst of
what will probably become the club's worst barren spell in more than two
"But our future will be assured if we win the coming 10 games. If we do
that then we can still win the league," said the contruction magnate,
who insisted he is also rebuilding the club on strong foundations.
How much faith the Real players have in his words will be tested at home
to Malaga on Sunday.
Madrid are 11 points behind their bitter rivals and league leaders
Barcelona, and the 29-times champions of Spain look like going a second
successive season without a trophy of any kind.
One thing is certain though, Real coach Wanderley Luxemburgo will shake
up his side on Sunday after taking only four points from their last five
David Beckham returns after suspension but Jose Maria 'Guti' Gutierrez
retains his place as a starter thanks to Danish international Thomas
Gravesen notching up five yellow cards in almost record time.
Gravesen arrived from English Premiership side Everton in the winter
break and has added steel to Real's midfield but has found Spanish
referees keener to caution him for his uncompromising style than their
"It's difficult but not impossible to win the league. After all, we
started off the year with seven straight wins. Why not a similar streak
to finish the season?" theorised Beckham on Thursday.
"If we win all our games and Barca trip up, anything is possible," added
the England captain.
Beckham's compatriot and fellow England international Michael Owen also
looks set to start with Ronaldo still suffering from pain in his left
thigh after two recent bruising encounters against Juventus and Getafe.
Santiago Solari is set to reap the benefits of his late, spectacular
goal in last Sunday's 2-1 loss at Getafe and start on the left wing in
place of Luis Figo.
Barcelona travel to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, where they won 3-2
last season with Ronaldinho getting two of the Catalan club's goals.
The World Player of the Year is keen for a similar return from this
season's trip to Galicia and, perhaps after hearing Beckham's words
earlier in the day, warned his team-mates that the league was not yet
"We are still all aware that there is a long way to go. Despite our
advantage, the league isn't yet won and we still have to respect our
rivals," Ronaldinho cautioned on Thursday.
Nevertheless, some of his colleague were prepared to talk about when,
rather than if, Barca win the league.
"We haven't won any titles in the last few years but that doesn't mean
to say this club has become any less popular, and when we win the league,
we'll become even more popular," boasted Deco.
Deco is one of three Barca players - Xavi Hernandez and Rafael Marquez
being the others - who have four yellow cards to their names.
With the derby at Real Madrid just two games away, there could be the
peculiar sight of the trio trying to earn themselves a booking against
Deportivo in order not to risk missing the derby.
"It would be a real shame to lose out on the derby. It's the one match
no one wants to miss. But trying to get a booking, we don't play that
way," said Xavi rather self-righteously on Wednesday.
Mind you, those were almost the words of Beckham himself after he
deliberately acquired a yellow card in last October's World Cup match
against Wales in order to avoid a trip to Azerbaijan.
Saturday (kick off times in GMT)
Real Betis v Albacete (1700)
Espanyol v Real Sociedad (1900)
Deportivo La Coruna v Barcelona (2100)
Athletic Bilbao v Levante (1600)
Real Mallorca v Sevilla (1600)
Numancia v Racing Santander (1600)
Valencia v Getafe (1600)
Real Madrid v Malaga (1800)
Real Zaragoza v Atletico Madrid (2000)