Revitalised Real determined to win in Barcelona

By Duncan Shaw, DPA,

Madrid : Real Madrid are determined to win away to historic rivals Barcelona Saturday, against all odds in the La Liga.

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Three days ago the “Madrididistas” didn’t seem to have a prayer in the Nou Camp, against a Barca side carrying all before them at home and in Europe.

Straight after Sunday’s 3-4 defeat at home to Sevilla – which left Real fifth in La Liga, nine points behind leaders Barca – coach Bernd Schuster said that “right now, it’s impossible for us to beat Barcelona.”

This pessimistic statement was one of the reasons Schuster was sacked Sunday and replaced by Juande Ramos.

On Wednesday, Ramos’ debut on the Real bench could hardly have been more promising: 3-0 against Zenit St Petersburg, with a new attitude and a new spirit from an injury-hit team that seemed moribund just three days ago.

“Tonight we made a new start,” said veteran right-back Michel Salgado. “We will have to continue like this against Barcelona.”

The truth of the matter is, however, that Real will go to the Camp Nou without injured Pepe, Gabriel Heinze, Mahamadou Diarra, Ruben de la Red and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

In addition, Dutchmen Royston Drenthe and Wesley Sneijder are doubtful, while Marcelo and Arjen Robben have been suspended.

Barca are desperate to leave Real 12 points behind, but club president Joan Laporta wisely tried to lower expectations Wednesday, saying “it seems that everyone expects us to win easily, it will not be easy … we have to keep our feet on the ground.”

Barca will be without injured Gabriel Milito, Andres Iniesta and Alexander Hleb. But their regulars will be well rested since coach Josep Guardiola fielded a complete reserve team on Tuesday against Shakhtar Donetsk – and was rewarded with a 3-2 defeat.

The Barca-Real “Clasico” is not the only game of the weekend. On Saturday, third-placed Valencia are at home to Espanyol. On Sunday, second-placed Sevilla are away to fourth-placed Sevilla.

Sunday’s other games are: Atletico Madrid-Betis, Malaga-Numancia, Valladolid-Deportivo Coruna, Almeria-Racing Santander, Recreativo Huelva-Osasuna, Athletic Bilbao-Sporting Gijon and Getafe-Mallorca.