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Real face derby test, Barcelona face Euro hopefuls

sports Updated: Mar 26, 2010 16:46 IST

AFP
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Real Madrid have a second derby in a week at home to Atletico Madrid on Sunday as they bid to hold top spot for the upcoming 'El Clasico' against Barcelona.

Real were comfortable 4-2 winners over local rivals Getafe on Thursday as they moved back to the summit, above Barcelona on goal difference, and now face more illustrious neighbours Atletico at their fortress Santiago Bernabeu where they have won all 14 home matches in the league.

Madrid have held the upper hand in the city derby to the extent that Atletico have not managed to beat their rivals for over a decade with their last win back in the 1999/00 season.

Real have plundered 78 goals in the league this season with Gonzalo Higuain leading the way with 22 goals in 22 appearances after grabbing a brace against Getafe.

"I am happy with my form and to be scoring goals," said Higuain.

"There are 10 games left which is a long way to go and we have to stay calm and do what we have been doing. Now we have to concentrate on beating Atletico (Madrid) on Sunday."

Real, who will face Barcelona on the weekend of April 10/11, won the first game 3-2 in a scintillating derby at the Vicente Calderon that could have ended in a draw but for a fine last minute save from Iker Casillas.

Atletico defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Thursday to move five points off the top six and captain Antonio Lopez said his side were far from intimidated.

"Real Madrid don't scare me," said Antonio Lopez. "They are special games and we hope for a different result to that of the last few years.

"We started the league campaign very poorly and now we are in no-man's land but we are going to climb up some places in the table."

Champions Barcelona, behind Real on goal difference, have a testing game on Saturday when they travel to fourth-placed Real Mallorca who have been a real force at home this season.

Mallorca have won 12 out of their 13 home games and beat Barcelona in this fixture last season, although Barca had already been crowned champions.

Barcelona scrapped to a 2-0 win over Osasuna on Wednesday in what was a far from vintage performance but they got the points thanks to late goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bojan Krkic.

"We have to win games whatever it takes because we have a team (Real Madrid) up there with us that is doing very well and it is going to be very complicated for us and them," said midfielder Andres Iniesta.

People are saying Barcelona are not as strong as last season but their tally of 71 points is two more than they had at the same stage last season. The problem is Real have upped the ante with 71 points compared with their 63 at this stage 12 months ago.

In other matches, Sevilla travel to Villarreal on Sunday as they come to terms with the dismissal of coach Manolo Jimenez on Tuesday following the 1-1 draw with bottom side Xerez.

Jimenez has guided Sevilla to the Kings Cup final but a Champions League exit to CSKA Moscow and no win since late February in the league brought about the end of his two-and-a-half year tenure.

Sevilla are currently outside the Champions League spots in fifth, two points behind Mallorca, and have a long injury list with Diego Perotti, Jesus Navas and Luis Fabiano three key players on the sidelines.

Villarreal have changed coaches too this season getting rid of Ernesto Valverde and his replacement Juan Carlos Garrido is trying to get the club into the top six.

At the moment Villarreal are five points off the European places.

Valencia have taken advantage of Villarreal's and Sevilla's woes this season to claim third place, six points above Mallorca, and are targeting a third consecutive win at Real Zaragoza on Saturday.

Valencia's top-scorer David Villa is expected to be out after going to hospital with head trauma.