Madrid looks to bounce back from first defeat
Real Madrid will once again be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo as it looks to rebound from its first defeat of the season, while Spanish leader Barcelona faces its first big test of the new campaign against Valencia. Sevilla, who ended Madrid's perfect start to the season, plays Deportivo La Coruna as it looks to keep pace with the two favorites for the La Liga title.sports Updated: Oct 15, 2009 18:16 IST
Real Madrid will once again be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo as it looks to rebound from its first defeat of the season, while Spanish leader Barcelona faces its first big test of the new campaign against Valencia.
Madrid, coming off a 2-1 loss to Sevilla, will be without its world-record signing after Ronaldo aggravated an ankle sprain while playing for Portugal last weekend. Ronaldo is expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks.
Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini can count on midfielder Lassana Diarra, who returns from injury, to anchor the midfield against Valladolid on Saturday.
Sevilla, who ended Madrid's perfect start to the season last Sunday, plays Deportivo La Coruna as it looks to keep pace with the two favorites for the La Liga title.
Barcelona tops the table after six straight wins with 18 points, Madrid and Sevilla have 15, Deportivo has 12 and Valencia 11 points. If Barcelona wins on Saturday, it will be the first team in league history to win its first seven games.
"The game at the Mestalla Stadium is always one of the most difficult of the season," Barcelona defender Daniel Alves said. "If we win we can further distance ourselves from a team that is going to be a rival come the end of the season ... we have to take advantage."
Valencia striker David Villa is hoping to recover from a leg injury in time to play but coach Unai Emery said the Spain international _ who leads the league with six goals _ will only play if he's fully fit. Valencia is also without defender Carlos Marchena and winger Joaquin Sanchez, who both have leg injuries. Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez is expected to be available despite leaving the Spain camp early because of a problem with his right knee.
Madrid knows it can't afford to fall behind its arch rival and even without Ronaldo can draw on the likes of Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso in its lineup. But Madrid will also be without midfielder Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez and defender Christoph Metzelder, who are both nursing ankle injuries.
"We naturally want to play a beautiful game, but we have to take things slowly," Alonso said. "We've just started and I'm sure there will be many surprises in the championship." Sevilla has won five straight since dropping its opening game against Valencia, while Deportivo has won four of five since an opening day loss.
"Deportivo has also had a good start but if Sevilla continues playing at this level there are few teams that can beat it," Sevilla defender Sergio Sanchez said. "So there is little Deportivo can do if Sevilla is playing at this level."
Atletico Madrid would like to follow up its first victory of the campaign when it plays Osasuna on Sunday, especially with a Champions League date at Chelsea next week.
Villarreal tries for its first win of the season against last-place Xerez, while Espanyol will look to put speculation over striker Raul Tamudo's future aside when it faces Tenerife. The former Spain striker has reportedly asked to leave the club. In Sunday's other seventh round games, it's: Athletic Bilbao vs Sporting Gijon; Malaga vs Almeria; Zaragoza vs. Racing Santander; and Mallorca vs Getafe.