Real Madrid "calm" ahead of derby

Published Apr. 10, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Assistant manager Aitor Karanka insists Real Madrid remain "calm" despite seeing their lead in the Primera Division title race cut to just four points ahead of Wednesday's visit to local rivals Atletico.

Jose Mourinho's side at one point held a commanding 10-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

But that advantage has steadily been whittled away, with Los Blancos dropping a further two points against Valencia at the weekend.

Barcelona can cut that gap to a point when they face Getafe on Tuesday night, placing the pressure firmly on Madrid with the sides still to meet at the Nou Camp before the end of the season.

But Karanka says there is no sense of panic at the Bernabeu, and that the squad remain relaxed as they chase a first league title since 2008.

He told a press conference: "We are calm because we are four points above Barcelona.

"I know the atmosphere in the dressing room and we are calm.


"We are thinking about our next match and we have players who are eager to continue to fight to win La Liga."

Seventh-placed Atletico will be relishing the chance to dent their neighbours' title hopes at the Vicente Calderon, although they have not beaten their city rivals since 1999.

And Real defender Raul Albiol knows a fiery reception awaits him and his team-mates.

"We expect Atletico Madrid to be aggressive and motivated to win. We're going to concentrate hard to take three points," he said.

"We played at home and were expected to win against Valencia. That match was crazy, but we have a four-point lead and that's important.

"We must now think about Wednesday's match. This week will be tough."

And Atletico midfielder Juanfran has warned the title hopefuls that the fixture could be a "decisive" game for them.

"We expect a very strong Real Madrid," he told a press conference.

"They are playing for the league. It will be a decisive match for them.

"We have gone a long time without a win against Real Madrid and are playing in our stadium, in front of our people and we have an overwhelming desire to make a great game and win."

Mourinho is expected to hand a start to Angel Di Maria after the Argentina international's recent return to full fitness from a niggling thigh problem, while Kaka may also be promoted to the starting line-up after being a substitute on Sunday.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone, meanwhile, will be without in-form striker Eduardo Salvio, defender Miranda and midfielder Mario Suarez due to suspension.