MADRID: Real Madrid, buoyed by five consecutive league wins, are aiming to make it six in a row at Celta Vigo today and take over as the Spanish league leaders for the first time this season.
“This weekend we can get in front,” said Real’s Roberto Carlos this week.
“We’ve worked hard for a number of weeks to get ourselves into this position and I don’t think we are going to trip up now. The team has invested a lot of effort in this and now it is time to get the rewards,” added the Brazilian World Cup winner, although Real will be missing the suspended Fernando Hierro.
Real currently lie in second place and have 33 points from their 16 games, three behind leaders Real Sociedad, who have held pole position for the last three months.
The San Sebastian-based club will leave the door open to their illustrious rivals, who have 28 Spanish titles to their credit as opposed to two by Sociedad, if they lose in Valencia today. The European champions have a much better goal difference than their Basque rivals.
Valencia, the reigning Spanish champions, slipped to fourth with 28 points after getting thrashed 4-1 by Real Madrid in the Spanish capital last Sunday.
“And that’s the reason why I think Valencia are going to win and, in turn, help us. They need to win, to keep alive any hope of retaining their title, and they know that they can’t let this opportunity to go begging,” analysed Roberto Carlos.
However, Roberto Carlos and the rest of the Real squad don’t need to look too closely at the Spanish papers to know that one of the main reasons Real Sociedad are unbeaten this season is that they have been very difficult to break down away from home.
Sociedad coach Raynald Denoueix has indicated that he might opt for a five man back line in Valencia, with the addition of Norwegian international Bjorn Kvarme.
Up front, Real Sociedad will also relish the return of their Yugoslav sharpshooter Darko Kovacevic, who was missing from Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Malaga through suspension.
Kovacevic has found the net nine times this season, the second highest tally in the Spanish First Division and more than any Madrid or Valencia player can boast of having bagged.
For their part, Valencia will be without key midfielders Pablo Aimar and David Albelda, who are both suspended.
Deportivo La Coruna have quietly moved up to third on the back of 10 unbeaten games but face a tricky away trip to Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona still lie down in eighth place but have won their last two games and have started to look in the league something like the side that has been laying waste to opponents in the Champions League.
The Catalan giants have a chance to improve further tomorrow at Malaga, who have not won in their last seven outings, but Barca will be without their suspended Dutch defender Frank de Boer. – AFP