MADRID - La Liga heavyweights Barcelona
and Real Madrid will want vast improvement when they host
Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano respectively on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho's Real in particular need to buck up their
ideas if they are to end Barca's three-year stranglehold on the
title after dropping more points in an uninspiring 0-0 draw at
Racing Santander in midweek following a shock 1-0 defeat at
Levante on Sunday.
"We cannot ignore the evidence," Real's Spain midfielder
Xabi Alonso told reporters.
"The dynamic is not good and we have to change it as soon as
possible," the former Liverpool player added.
"We have to pack more punch because matches like this [at
Racing] take their toll and we cannot afford to drop many
Barca twice had to come from behind to rescue a point at
Valencia, the early-season pace setters, who are top after four
matches on 10 points.
Malaga and Real Betis both have nine, although promoted
Betis can move clear on 12 points if they win their game in hand
at home to Real Zaragoza later on Thursday.
Barca have eight points, level with Sevilla and Levante, and
Real Madrid are on seven along with Atletico and Real Sociedad.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola was relieved to emerge from
Valencia's Mestalla stadium with a point but acknowledged that
there was room for improvement after Cesc Fabregas netted his
fourth goal in four league matches to snatch a draw.
"Our strength of character gave us the draw," the former
Barca and Spain midfielder told a news conference.
"I think that it was a fair result. Let's learn from what we
did not do so well."
Atletico have won both their last two La Liga matches 4-0,
with new striker Radamel Falcao netting five goals.
The Colombian struck twice in Wednesday's success at home to
Sporting Gijon and coach Gregorio Manzano said he must continue
to be the focus of the team's offensive play.
"You would have to go a long way back in the history of
Atletico Madrid to find a player who, in seven days, has created
so many chances, so many in such a short period of time,"
Manzano told a news conference.
"He has adapted so quickly and I'm sure that he will rub
shoulders with the great scorers in our league such as [Lionel]
Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
"The team must continue working to Falcao, it's for the rest
of his team-mates to continue to maintain this constant offensive
play in to the area where he is a real killer."
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