Barcelona, Madrid look to recover from losses

Barcelona, Madrid look to recover from losses

Published Feb. 18, 2010 2:50 p.m. ET

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid will be looking to recover from defeats with this weekend's round of Spanish league play.

Barcelona will also be hoping not to lose any more players to injury against Racing Santander on Saturday after midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Seydou Keita both suffered leg injuries in last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid - the Spanish leader's first loss of the season.

With a Champions League match at Stuttgart next week, it cannot afford to lose any more players ahead of coach Pep Guardiola's 100th game in charge of the European champions.

"There are a lot of people who wanted us to lose our first game and now they're happy and hopeful we have doubts," defender Gerard Pique said on Thursday. "Inside the dressing room there are no doubts."

With Barcelona out of the Copa del Rey, playing fewer games may actually have been a handicap to a club that is used to playing twice a week according to midfielder Sergio Busquets.

"There are injuries that have an explanation and others that just happen," Busquets said. "We prefer to play every two or three days."

Although Barcelona's recent form has been uninspiring - with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggling with only one goal in seven league games - Racing has only ever won twice at the Camp Nou in 41 games there, and not since the 1982-83 season.

Madrid trails its Catalan rival by two points and plays at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium a day later. It has only lost one of its 15 home matches so far this season - to AC Milan.

But Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at Lyon exposed Madrid's overconfidence again.

Madrid promised to beat Liverpool one year ago but was eliminated from the Champions League at the first knockout stage for the fifth straight season.

"The truth is we didn't expect to lose that match," goalkeeper Iker Casillas said.

High-price acquisitions Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka came under fire for their failure to impress in the sorry defeat at Stade Gerland, while coach Manuel Pellegrini has also come under scrutiny for his tactics.

The Chilean coach could welcome midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart back into the lineup, while counterpart Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez is doubtful with a groin strain.

"Pellegrini has told us to stay calm," defender Ezequiel Garay said Thursday, adding that a victory "would be a nice way of getting rid of the bad taste left by the Champions (League)."

Villarreal is without defenders Gonzalo Rodriguez (thigh) and Diego Godin (suspension).

Behind the front-runners, the race for European places continues with third-place Valencia facing Getafe on Monday, while Sevilla and Mallorca meet on Sunday.

Fourth-place Sevilla is waiting on the health of Frederic Kanoute while fellow striker Lautaro Acosta should be available for the trip to the Ono Estadi, where Mallorca has yet to drop a point in 10 league matches. Sevilla has lost three straight on the road.

Valencia has 43 points, Sevilla 39, Mallorca 37 and Deportivo La Coruna is sixth with 35.

In Sunday's other games, it's: Malaga vs. Espanyol; Athletic Bilbao vs. Tenerife; Osasuna vs. Valladolid; Zaragoza vs. Sporting Gijon; and Almeria vs. Atletico Madrid.

Deportivo plays last-place Xerez on Saturday.