Stoke City crashed out of the FA Cup with an embarrassing 2-0 third round defeat against League One Hartlepool on Saturday. City boss Tony Pulis rested seven first-team regulars and paid the price as managerless Hartlepool claimed a Premier League scalp thanks to second half goals from Michael Nelson and David Foley at Victoria Park.
Caretaker manager Chris Turner has been filling in for the recently sacked Danny Wilson at Hartlepool and he masterminded the first shock of the third round in Saturday's early match. Pulis's decision to leave out so many stars reflected his desire for Premier League survival ahead of FA Cup glory, but the damage to Stoke's morale will hardly help their survival hopes.
The League One team became the second team into the last 32 after Tottenham's 3-1 victory over Wigan on Friday. Nelson gave The Pool a 49th-minute lead and Foley added the second with a 25yard shot in the 76th minute.
Madrid hope to catch Barca
Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos, dumped by Spurs last year, starts 2009 with another daunting mission as his team try to cut Barcelona's 12-point lead at the top of the Spanish first division. Bernd Schuster was axed by Real after admitting it was Barcelona's year and the odds are heavily stacked against Ramos, back in Spain after an unsuccessful spell at Tottenham, guiding Real to a third successive league crown.
Real have a tough start to 2009 with a home match against title rivals Villarreal on Sunday and Barca can crank up the pressure on Saturday by defeating Real Mallorca at Camp Nou to move 15 points clear of their arch rivals. A good start is crucial for Real, languishing down in fifth, and Ramos has wasted no time during the January transfer window paying Portsmouth 20 million euros for holding midfielder Lassana Diarra.
Sunday fixtures: La Liga, Almeria v Betis, Athl Bilbao v Espanyol, Recreativo Huelva v Numancia, Malaga v Gijon, Real Madrid v Villarreal, Valladolid v Racing Santander, Sevilla v Osasuna, Getafe v D La Coruna.