MADRID - The chances of lightning striking
twice are minimal but that is the faint hope promoted Hercules
hang on to as they seek the unlikeliest of doubles over La Liga
leaders Barcelona on Saturday.
The modest club from Alicante are the only side to have
beaten Pep Guardiola's champions this season, when they recorded
a shock 2-0 victory at the Nou Camp in September.
The two-goal hero that day was new signing Nelson Valdez,
and the Paraguay striker has gone on to notch seven so far this
campaign, forming a productive partnership with French striker
David Trezeguet, the club's top scorer with nine.
"It isn't impossible to beat Barca," Valdez told sports
daily AS. "I think we have a better chance of winning here than
we did there because we are playing in front of our own fans. We
could spring a surprise."
Hercules are 12th in the standings and have been kept away
from the relegation places by their impressive home form. They
have won their last four league games at the Rico Perez, scoring
Barca are on a roll, however, and have yet another record in
sight. They are seeking their 15th consecutive league victory
when they could match the La Liga-best mark set by Real Madrid
in the 1960-61 season.
Barca hold a four-point lead over their great rivals Real,
who are in second, and thumped Almeria 5-0 in a King's Cup
semi-final first leg on Wednesday. Real had a tougher time,
battling to a 1-0 first leg win away to holders Sevilla, but the
two look on course for a cup final meeting.
Karim Benzema scored Madrid's goal, his second this week,
reminding his unconvinced coach Jose Mourinho of what he is
capable of on the day Emmanuel Adebayor landed in the Spanish
capital to complete his loan signing from Manchester City.
The Togolese striker will probably need some time to adapt
before before thrown straight into the fray.
After the hostile atmosphere of the Sanchez Pizjuan, Real
travel to another cauldron on Sunday for what is usually
a bruising encounter for visitors at struggling Osasuna's Reyno
de Navarra stadium.
Third-placed Villarreal, who are nine behind Real, visit
fifth-placed Espanyol on Sunday in what promises to be an
attractive match between two of the best footballing sides in La
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