Fear of failure drives on Madrid in La Liga

AFP, Saturday 24 Mar 2012

Real Madrid have dropped four points in the past week after two 1-1 draws, at home to Malaga and away to Villarreal

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho (Photo: Reuters)

Real Madrid insist they have not been paralysed by stage-fright despite seeing their 10-point lead in La Liga slashed to six by bitter rivals Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho's side, who tackle Real Sociedad on Saturday, have dropped four points in the past week after two 1-1 draws at home to Malaga and away to Villarreal, where they also had two players sent off.

Defending champions Barcelona, meanwhile, go to in-form Mallorca, unbeaten in four games.

Madrid were surprised by a last minute leveller from a free-kick by Malaga's Santi Cazorla last Sunday, before losing Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil to red cards against Villarreal on Wednesday after Marcos Senna had equalised with another late free-kick.

Mourinho and assistant Rui Farias were sent from the bench in a sign that nerves may be creeping in as Madrid get closer to breaking Barca's dominance of the last three La Liga titles.

After the game Mourinho refused to speak to the press or allow anyone else from his camp to discuss the match.

Having lost only once in 22 league games—2-1 at home to Barcelona in December—it was a major shock for 'Los blancos' to drop points twice in a matter of days.

But Madrid president Florentino Perez sent out a message of defiance in the wake of Wednesday's setback.

"Madrid and their fans never give up," he said at the presentation of a Real Madrid theme park set to open in the United Arab Emirates in 2015.

Real Sociedad lost 3-1 at home to Levante in midweek, having to play the second-half with 10 men after midfielder Gorka Elustondo was sent off.

Centre-half Mikel Gonzalez believes the feeling of injustice will spur them on in the Santiago Bernabeu.

"There is no point in complaining about referee decisions, both teams have a lot at stake on Saturday but if we can survive to the last period of the game alive, we have a chance of getting something from Madrid," he said.

Barcelona will go to Mallorca in good spirits.

Lionel Messi will be in celebratory mood after becoming the club's all time leading goalscorer on Tuesday with a hat-trick in the 5-3 win over Granada, taking his tally to 234 career goals.

The little Argentinian will also be defending his position for the prize of 'Pichichi' at the top of La Liga's goalscoring charts, where he now leads Cristiano Ronaldo by one with 34 league strikes.

Third-placed Valencia go to Getafe with coach Unai Emery under pressure despite their league position and good form in the Europa League.

The 2-1 defeat at home to bottom club Zaragoza on Wednesday means the gap to city neighbour Levante in fourth position has been reduced to three points. Levante entertain sixth placed Osasuna on Sunday.

Also in the race for European football next season are Malaga in fifth who go to eighth-placed Espanyol.

Atletico Madrid, currently in seventh, go to rejuvenated basement side Zaragoza who are finally in touching distance—within two points—of Racing Santander and Sporting Gijon after being stranded at the bottom for the last 14 rounds of games.




Mallorca v Barcelona (1700 GMT), Real Madrid v Real Sociedad (1900 GMT), Getafe v Valencia (2100 GMT)


Zaragoza v Atletico Madrid (1100 GMT), Levante v Osasuna (1500 GMT), Espanyol v Malaga (1500 GMT), Atletic Bilbao v Sporting Gijon (1700 GMT), Real Betis v Racing Santander (1845 GMT), Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal (1845 GMT)


Granada v Sevilla (2000 GMT)

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