Super Cup winners Real Madrid seek league upturn

AFP, Sunday 2 Sep 2012

Real Madrid hoping for return to form with victory over Granada on Sunday, following last week's defeat to Getafe

Real v Barcelona
Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain from Argentina, left foreground, Iker Casillas, center, Pepe, right, in their back pose with the trophy for photos after the team's victory over FC Barcelona in their Spanish Supercup second leg soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid (Photo: AP)

Having claimed the season's first piece of silverware with victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid return to domestic action needing to close a five-point deficit on the Catalans in La Liga.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho uncharacteristically tore into his players after their 2-1 derby defeat by Getafe last weekend, describing their performance as "unacceptable".

He got the reaction he was looking for in the Super Cup though, with a sparkling first-half display on Wednesday at the Bernabeu paving the way for a 2-1 victory over 10-man Barca that gave Madrid the trophy on away goals.

It was the only silverware that Mourinho lacked in Spain after winning the King's Cup in his first year and then the league title last season, which ended Barca's hegemony under Pep Guardiola, who had finished first in the previous three campaigns.

"The trophy will give us confidence. We should enjoy the moment but also realise that we must now move forward and know that we cannot afford to make any more mistakes," said Cristiano Ronaldo, ahead of Sunday's game at home to Granada.

"We know we have to improve as a group as well as individually. We started the game against Barca well, scoring two goals, but then relaxed and eased off as we became tired."

The defeat was a blow for new Barca coach Tito Vilanova as he seeks to emulate the successes of his predecessor.

He has so far failed to tighten up the defence, which was the weak point of the team last season, and centre-backs Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano were chasing shadows for much of the first 45 minutes against Madrid.

Still, Vilanova praised the way his side responded after the break.

"I am proud that with 10 men in the second half, we managed to create five scoring chances," he said.

"This isn't a psychological blow. We would have preferred to win, but it isn't make-or-break for the season and we now return to the league."

Barca take on Valencia looking to maintain their 100 per cent record, which is also shared by Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano.

Valladolid are yet to concede a goal in an impressive return to the top flight and they face an Athletic Bilbao side in disarray after the departure of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich, and with Fernando Llorente expected to follow him out of the door.

Their policy of only fielding Basques means their ability to hold onto their players is crucial but their fine displays last season have put them in the shop window.

Rayo now play Sevilla, who were happy to come away with a point from the Andalusian derby with Granada after playing the whole second half with 10 men following the dismissal of goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Atletico Madrid will look to continue their strong start to the season, which included a hat-trick by striker Radamel Falcao in a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao, when they play Real Betis.

Modest Levante were the major surprises last season, qualifying for the Europa League, but after a stuttering start without a win, they aim to get back on track against Espanyol.



Rayo Vallecano v Sevilla (1000GMT), Athletic Bilbao v Valladolid (1400GMT), Levante v Espanyol (1600GMT), Real Madrid v Granada (1750GMT), Barcelona v Valencia (1930GMT)


Real Betis v Atletico Madrid (1930GMT)

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