MADRID - Real Madrid must avoid slipping
on a banana skin on Saturday when struggling Hercules visit the
Bernabeu in La Liga.
Jose Mourinho's team host Olympique Lyon on Wednesday aiming
to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals for the first
time in seven years after a 1-1 first-leg draw and then follow
up with a domestic trip to local rivals Atletico Madrid.
Real have a 100 percent home record this season but captain
Iker Casillas (pictured) warned against under-estimating
La Liga's worst travellers with three goals scored, six
points and one road victory have achieved something no one else
has this season, winning 2-0 in Barcelona in September.
"Our most important game is the one against Hercules because
we cannot afford to drop any more points in the league," Real's
Spanish international goalkeeper Casillas told reporters.
"Although they may be considered inferior they are fighting
for different objectives and beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp. We
need to remember that."
With 11 games left, Real are seven points behind leaders
Barca who visit Sevilla on Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to recover from a muscle strain
but Mourinho may be tempted to rest his leading scorer ahead of
next week's games.
The Portugal forward missed his first league match of the
season last weekend and in his absence Real played some of their
best football of the campaign to win 3-1 at Racing Santander,
with Mesut Ozil in particular catching the eye.
"As you can see we have a good squad," said Germany
midfielder Ozil while denying the team played better because
Ronaldo was out.
"He's a world-class footballer who has won us many games and
I hope he recovers soon."
Hercules, in 18th spot, are without injured leading scorer
David Trezeguet and playmaker Tote while Nelson Valdez is a
Barca turn their attentions back to domestic matters after
qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals at the
expense of Arsenal.
They travel to eighth-placed Sevilla who have lost joint top
scorer Luis Fabiano to injury.
Elsewhere, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has been feeling
the heat from fans ahead of the trip to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
One win in 10 games has left rock bottom Malaga four points
from safety but vice-president Abdullah Ghubn gave the Chilean
his backing this week.
"I have read some reports we might change coaches after the
trip to San Sebastian," he told reporters.
"Whatever happens we are not going to change. He is the
right coach for this team."
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