A 3-0 home defeat by CA Osasuna cost Madrid their place at the top of the Primera División and ahead of Saturday's 133rd derby against Club Atlético de Madrid, coach Carlos Queiroz took his squad away to Cartagena on the Mediterranean coast to escape the gathering storm clouds.
Tought tests ahead
Victory against Atlético would certainly act as a restorative ahead of upcoming matches against FC Barcelona and RC Deportivo La Coruña, as Queiroz admitted when he said: "The games we have ahead - Atleti, Barça and Depor - couldn't be better because it is precisely in difficult moments that the team can achieve the glory of victory. Now we can show our quality."
Madrid will enter the match without Ronaldo (calf), while Atlético, must seek their first derby win since the 1998/99 season without their suspended leading scorer, Fernando Torres. Another young gun, Javier Arizmendi, could deputise.
Elsewhere in Spain, leaders Valencia CF - who edged two points clear last weekend - face Real Sociedad de Fútbol at the Mestalla, while third-placed Deportivo warm up for their Champions League semi-final against FC Porto with a home game against Real Valladolid. Porto themselves - five points clear at the top of the Portuguese SuperLiga - play SC Beira-Mar on Sunday with doubts over Edgaras Jankauskas.
League Cup final
Another of the Champions League semi-finalists, AS Monaco FC, have a free weekend in France where the focus is on Saturday's League Cup final between FC Sochaux Montbéliard - last year's beaten finalists - and FC Nantes Atlantique. Neither side has won the trophy before and the winners will earn a place in next season's UEFA Cup. Nantes are missing the injured Stéphane Ziani and Jérémy Toulalan while Sochaux are without injured midfield player Omar Daf and suspended striker Jaouad Zaïri.
Chelsea face Everton
Across the Channel in England, Monaco's semi-final opponents Chelsea FC will warm up for Tuesday's first leg by playing Everton FC at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are second in the Premiership seven points behind Arsenal FC - a lead that could be extended after Arsenal's home match against Leeds United AFC on Friday - after taking only one point from two games over Easter.
Opportunity to impress
Claudio Ranieri is expected to give Joe Cole, Celestine Babayaro and Adrian Mutu an opportunity to impress but Juan Sebastián Verón is a doubt with a thigh strain. Manchester United FC, who are three points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, visit relegation-threatened Portsmouth FC. Two other strugglers - Blackburn Rovers FC and Leicester City FC - meet at Ewood Park.
Del Piero fit
In Italy, Serie A leaders AC Milan visit AC Siena without injured striker Filippo Inzaghi. Milan are nine points ahead of AS Roma who travel to Modena FC without suspended midfield players Emerson and Olivier Dacourt. Third-placed Juventus FC could feature the fit-again Alessandro Del Piero at Parma AC who are currently fourth. FC Internazionale, meanwhile, seek a fifth consecutive league win when they host Bologna FC.
Finally to Germany where Bundesliga leaders SV Werder Bremen entertain Hannover 96 on Sunday with Thomas Schaaf a likely replacement for the suspended Ümit Davala. Twenty-four hours earlier, second-placed FC Bayern travel to BV Borussia Dortmund without Tobias Rau and with doubts over Oliver Kahn. Dortmund could welcome back Tomas Rosický in place of the injured Torsten Frings.
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