Arbeloa orders Real to regain focus

Arbeloa orders Real to regain focus

Published Feb. 19, 2010 6:13 p.m. ET

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.