|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Confident Real see tide turning in their favour
Simon Baskett | February 17, 2006 16:28 IST
Five straight league victories and a slump for leaders Barcelona have raised Real Madrid's hopes that the tide is finally turning in their favour.
Real produced a storming, if ultimately futile, 4-0 victory over Real Zaragoza in the King's Cup on Tuesday after losing the first leg 6-1, and they will take that spirit into this weekend's match against Alaves.
"We've proved that we are a competitive team and we are now more united too," Brazilian full back Roberto Carlos told Marca on Thursday. "We are a stronger and more dangerous side.
"From now on we know what sort of attitude we've got to have. We can be up there fighting to win both the league and the Champions League and if we play like we did against Zaragoza I'm sure we'll win one of them.
"The title race has become very interesting because Barcelona have let slip an important advantage. We are now up there in the frame and there are plenty of points to play for."
Real, without a trophy for three years, made an awesome start at the Bernabeu, firing three goals in the first 10 minutes as they attempted to claw back the deficit.
Roberto Carlos scored a fourth on the hour, but although they laid siege to the Zaragoza area for the rest of the game they were unable to get the all-important fifth that would have sent them through to the Cup final.
With one eye on next week's Champions League knockout tie against Arsenal, Real, who are seven points adrift of Barca in third spot in the standings, are likely to rest several players against Alaves.
Defenders Cicinho and Jonathan Woodgate and midfielder Zinedine Zidane are favourites to sit it out along with suspended midfielder Thomas Gravesen.
After spending much of the season in the relegation zone Alaves have hauled themselves up to 15th place in the table having lost just once in their last five outings.
But the Basque side were plunged into chaos on Thursday when outspoken club president Dimitry Piterman sacked coach Juan Carlos Oliva after just a month at the helm.
Only two weeks ago Barcelona were 12 points clear at the top of the table, but successive defeats against Atletico Madrid and second-placed Valencia have cut the gap to six.
This Saturday the champions face a tricky fixture at home to struggling Real Betis who have lost two in a row and are desperate for points to stave off the threat of relegation.
"We have to play well against Betis because three very important points are at stake and a victory would give us a big boost ahead of the Chelsea match," Brazilian full back Silvinho told a news conference this week.
The Catalans, who play Cheslea in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, will be boosted by the return of Ronaldinho, who missed both defeats through suspension, and Portugal midfielder Deco.
Argentine teenage sensation Lionel Messi and French winger Ludovic Giuly are both injured, while defenders Carles Puyol and Juliano Belletti are doubtful after pulling up in training.
Buoyed by their 1-0 victory over Barca last week, Valencia can keep the pressure on the leaders by extending their unbeaten run to 13 matches when they travel to San Sebastian to play Real Sociedad on Sunday.
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage