Barcelona, Real face tough away games in La Liga

BY foxsports • September 16, 2010

Real Madrid and Barcelona both need to make up for faltering starts when they travel to tough away games this weekend in the Spanish league.

Barcelona plays at league leader Atletico Madrid on Sunday after a stunning 2-0 loss at home against promoted Hercules, and looks set to again deploy Liverpool signing Javier Mascherano to shore up the midfield.

Madrid travels to Real Sociedad on Saturday, and playmaker Xabi Alonso said he was delighted to be returning to his hometown of San Sebastian. Alonso, who began his professional career at Sociedad, said he expected a challenging match against tough players in his boyhood team.

"There will be three points at stake against Real Sociedad, so we will be opponents for 90 minutes," he said.

Alonso said he was impressed with Mesut Oezil, who played a key role in Madrid's 2-0 Champions League win against Ajax on Wednesday.

"He has good timing, works from the back and has great vision. His work on the team is fantastic and I believe he may become an important player in the future," Alonso said.

Coach Jose Mourinho agreed.

"The kid is really, really good. He looks very comfortable in this club so, yes, we are all happy with the kid," Mourinho said about Oezil.

Mourinho said he was not worried about his squad's lack of precision in front of goal, adding that it was just a matter of time before goalscoring improved.

"The best way to work on their psychological aspects is to do nothing. Leave them alone in their natural habitat," Mourinho said of his forwards.

Alonso dispelled thoughts that that Madrid's lack of scoring stemmed from the new tactics under Mourinho, whose Inter Milan side perfected a defensive, counterattacking style in winning a treble last season. Madrid has a long-standing tradition of attractive, attacking play.

"Mourinho isn't a defensive coach," Alonso said. "His Chelsea was demolishing."

Mascherano said it was a relief for Barcelona to win convincingly - 5-1 - against Panathinaikos in the Champions League ahead of a tough clash with Atletico.

The Argentine international made his Barcelona start against Hercules and said he still had a lot to learn about coach Pep Guardiola's techniques.

"I can hardly say I felt satisfied that day. But I stayed clam, I listen every day and learn new concepts, because football is seen and felt differently here," said Mascherano.

Mascherano said defensive midfielders at Barcelona were expected to take the ball forward a lot more than he was used to and that Guardiola expected him to play a bigger role in constructing moves.

He said referees in the Spanish league are a lot less forgiving than in the Premier League when it comes to physical contact, something he still has to get used to.

"I have to be careful not to get carded after 20 minutes because that affects you for the rest of the game," he said.

Hercules will have a chance for another upset when it plays second-place Valencia on Sunday.

Also, it's Espanyol vs. Almeria, Mallorca vs. Osasuna, Sporting Gijon vs. Athletic Bilbao, Racing Santander vs. Zaragoza, Levante vs. Villarreal, Malaga vs. Sevilla and Deportivo La Coruna vs. Getafe.