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Madrid grasp at last straw

Published: Friday 10 March 2006, 18.28CET
Real Madrid CF will have to put the disappointment of their UEFA Champions League exit behind them as they face a vital Spanish league trip to Valencia CF.
by Lucy Turner
from Barcelona

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Published: Friday 10 March 2006, 18.28CET

Madrid grasp at last straw

Real Madrid CF will have to put the disappointment of their UEFA Champions League exit behind them as they face a vital Spanish league trip to Valencia CF.

Real Madrid CF must put the disappointment of their UEFA Champions League exit behind them as they face a vital Spanish league trip to Valencia CF.

Arsenal blow
A goalless draw at Arsenal FC in midweek ensured that Madrid failed to reach the last 16 of Europe's top club competition for the second year running, and with FC Barcelona ten points clear in the Primera División, the Merengues seem resigned to another silverware-free season.

Realistic aims
"We have to be realistic and go for second position in the league," said goalkeeper Iker Casillas. "The season has almost gone to waste but we have to keep winning matches and hope Barcelona fall apart. When you go three seasons without winning a trophy, it's obvious things aren't going well."

'A lot at stake'
Second-placed Madrid travel to Valencia on Saturday with the two sides locked on 51 points, and they can ill afford to come away from the Mestalla empty-handed. "The league is the only competition we have left," said defender Raúl Bravo. "We have a lot at stake on Saturday."

Injury list
With David Beckham (back), Jonathan Woodgate (calf), Pablo García and Óscar Miñambres (both knee) all injured, coach Juan Ramón López Caro will not have it easy, but he is not wilting under pressure. "I was hired as a caretaker and I am still that, but I feel very capable of coaching Madrid," he said.

Valencia eager
However, with the additional burden of Florentino Pérez's resignation as Madrid president and the prospect of elections, Valencia may feel there have been worse times to face their adversaries - and end a run of two straight draws in the Primera División.

Season target
"Our aim is to avoid the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and we could take a huge step towards achieving second spot, but I don't think we've ever said that we're not fighting for the title, although it won't be easy as we are a long way off first place," said playmaker Pablo Aimar.

Serious test
Aimar and company will be without David Albelda, Patrick Kluivert, Edu (all knee), Vicente Rodríguez and Hugo Viana (both ankle) and are not expecting an easy ride. Defender Emiliano Moretti said: "I'm sure they are over the Arsenal match because they are experienced players. We have to play well."

Last updated: 10/03/06 16.43CET

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