Arbeloa orders Real to regain focus

Real Madrid have little time to dwell on their Champions League

defeat against Lyon as they prepare to host Villarreal on Sunday

night.

An off-colour Madrid lost the away leg of their last-16 clash

1-0 and they will need to produce a much better performance in the

return meeting if they are to avoid tumbling out of the tournament

at the same stage for the sixth successive season.

That match is not until next month though, and in the

meantime Madrid will need to concentrate their efforts on the

league and try to make the most of the problems leaders Barcelona

are experiencing.

The first challenge is a clash with coach Manuel Pellegrini’s

former club Villarreal, which is arguably the biggest test Madrid

have had so far at home in La Liga – where they have won 11 out of

11 and kept eight clean sheets.

It will not be Madrid’s final test at the Bernabeu though,

and their upcoming home matches are likely to determine whether

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will be celebrating any silverware this

season.

After the visit of Villarreal come successive league clashes

with Sevilla, Sporting Gijon, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and

Valencia.

They also have the second leg of their European tie with Lyon

during that spell, whilst knowing that if they go all the way to

the Champions League final then they will play another key ‘home’

match as the Bernabeu is the host venue.

Madrid therefore have plenty to play for over the coming

months, and as such defender Alvaro Arbeloa insists they have to

put the Lyon setback behind them.

“There are three weeks before we play the second leg, so we

can’t forget that we are also playing for La Liga,” he said.

“The Villarreal match is very important. They are a team that

are improving all the time. We need to get our game back on track.”

Madrid received a huge boost in the title race last weekend

when local rivals Atletico become the first team to beat leaders

Barca in the league this season.

That helped reduce the gap between the top two to two points,

and Barca will be eager to bounce back against Racing Santander at

the Nou Camp on Saturday evening.

Coach Pep Guardiola continues to have a selection headache,

though. Last weekend he was without six defensive players through

injury and suspension, and this weekend it is the midfield that’s

the main concern with Xavi, Seydou Keita and possibly Yaya Toure

all missing.

Sergio Busquets admits the loss of Xavi is a big blow,

saying: “Xavi is a very important player. He sets the rhythm of the

match. He’s the heart of this Barca team, but let’s hope we don’t

miss him too much.”

Aside from Barca’s game there are two other matches on

Saturday, with Deportivo La Coruna hosting bottom club Xerez – who

are now 10 points from safety – and Sevilla going to Real Mallorca

in the late kick-off.

Mallorca, who surrendered fourth spot to Sevilla during the

last round of matches, will be pleased to be back at home after

going down 1-0 to relegation-threatened Tenerife on Monday.

Mallorca, like Madrid, boast a 100% record at home.

There are five other matches on Sunday aside from the big

showdown at the Bernabeu, with Malaga hosting Espanyol, Sporting

going to improving Real Zaragoza, Almeria meeting Atletico, Osasuna

hosting second-bottom Real Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao taking on

Tenerife.

Tenerife, who have the worst away record in the division with

just two points from 10 games, won their first match in over two

months with their triumph over fellow islanders Mallorca.

The remaining match is the Monday night fixture between

third-placed Valencia and Getafe.