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Madrid go local in bid to defend seven-point lead

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03 Feb 2012 01:16:52

Madrid go local in bid to defend seven-point lead

Real Madrid's seven-point lead over Barcelona could come under threat this weekend when Jose Mourinho's side face a potentially tricky fixture at local rivals Getafe.

The team from the south of the capital may be sitting in ninth position but the Dark Blues sit only four points off the Champions League places for next season and are without a defeat in six league games.

Getafe are also the only team to have beaten Barcelona this season -- a significant detail, and also one of the reasons Real currently enjoy such a big gap over the Catalans.

Since being humiliated by a 3-1 home defeat to Barcelona in December, Mourinho's side have a 100 percent record in five league matches -- and that is partly down to on-form German international Mesut Ozil.

Having stated in midweek his desire to stay at the club long-term, the attacking midfielder is clear what the short-term goal is.

"It may that we have a big gap over Barca, but it's not. If we mess up twice they can catch us," said Ozil.

Getafe coach Luis Garcia has duly pinpointed Ozil as one of Real's danger men.

"I think the last few games he has been spectacular and we are now seeing the Ozil we had all heard about. Lets hope he has a bad game on Saturday but I think he has a great future with Madrid," said Garcia, who is nonetheless confident of taking something from the game.

"We are in good form and we'll have our chances, Real have failed to win in the league three times so far this season and we hope to add to that tally," added Garcia.

Apart from the obvious difficulties in facing a consistent Real, Garcia has personnel problems.

Centre-halves Rafael Lopez (injured) and Albert Lopo (suspended), together with forward Dani Guiza (suspended) will all be missing.

Also doubtful are midfielders Miguel Marcos Madera, known as 'Michel' (injury), while Pedro Leon -- who is on loan from Real -- will not feature either.

Real have no such worries, with the only uncertainty surrounding midfielder Xabi Alonso. He has returned from injury but if he is on the bench or unselected, Mourinho should continue with ex-Getafe player Esteban Granero.

At Barcelona frustration has been the word of the week, especially for Lionel Messi.

The Argentine midfielder was thwarted on a number of occasions in a 0-0 draw last week against Villarreal thanks mainly to the goalkeeping heroics of Diego Lopez.

And on Wednesday Messi had a penalty saved by Diego Alves in the Spanish Cup semi-final first leg as the Catalans eked out a 1-1 draw at Valencia.

Club captain Carles Puyol headed home the equaliser against Valencia, thus extending an incredible unbeaten sequence of games in which he has started that now runs to 54 matches -- the last defeat being against Inter Milan in the Champions League final in April 2010.

Although as a club they have lost seven games since that date, the talismanic Puyol has not started any of them.

He should again be captaining the side against a rampant Real Sociedad side who beat Sporting 5-1 on Sunday.

On Sunday third-placed Valencia visit Diego Simeone's fast-improving Atletico Madrid, who have taken 10 points from a possible 12 since the Argentinian coach's arrival at the club.

Seventh-placed Atletico have yet to concede a goal since Simeone arrived and will provide a stern test for Valencia who sit seven points ahead of them in the third Champions League place.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Levante v Racing Santander (1700), Mallorca v Real Betis (1700), Athletic Bilbao v Espanol (1700), Getafe v Real Madrid (1900), Barcelona v Real Sociedad (2100)

Sunday

Sporting Gijon v Osasuna (1100), Sevilla v Villarreal (1700), Zaragoza v Rayo Vallecano (1845), Atletico Madrid v Valencia (2030)

Monday

Granada v Malaga (2000)


AFP

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