Ailing Real Madrid anxious for win
Real Madrid hopes to put a disappointing start to its Spanish league campaign behind it with a home match against Osasuna on Saturday.
Madrid is already trailing rival Barcelona after drawing its first match of the season at Mallorca, and coach Jose Mourinho's task has not been made easier by an injury which has sidelined star playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo for three weeks.
Despite not being able to participate, Ronaldo is confident Madrid will overcome its sluggish start.
"The goal is always the same — to win," said Ronaldo. "We have a very good team and I am sure that if we work hard and have a little luck that we will win a title or two this year. We are not going to finish behind Barcelona."
The Portugal international said his recovery from an ankle injury was going well.
"I almost feel 100 per cent," he said.
Mourinho will measure his tactics against those of Osasuna coach Jose Antonio Camacho on Saturday, who had two brief spells in charge of Madrid.
The coach excluded journalists from Thursday's training session, in which Ezequiel Garay, Raul Albiol, Fernando Gago and Kaka joined Ronaldo on the sidelines.
Defending champion Barcelona, which beat Racing Santander in its opening match, looks to have an easier match against newly promoted Hercules on Saturday, with coach Pep Guardiola able to rely on a full-strength squad at the Camp Nou.
However, Guardiola has analysed past statistics and warned his players the match could be "a high risk encounter."
Under Guardiola, Barcelona has never lost when playing immediately after international matches, but the team has drawn six out of nine games.
Barca's second-choice goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto also warned that Hercules will be motivated and looking forward to its first match against the champions.
"They have signed a lot of players and I have no doubt that it'll be a difficult game," he said.
Esteban Vigo, Hercules' coach, said he hoped his squad could give Barcelona a good match. "We are playing probably the best team in the world and that should act as an incentive for us," said Vigo.
Also on Saturday, Valencia hosts Racing Santander and Atletico Madrid travels to face stiff competition against visiting Athletic Bilbao.
On Sunday, Sevilla hopes to bounce back from its Champions League exit at the hands of Braga when it takes on Deportivo La Coruna at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Ivorian international midfielder Didier Zokora said Sevilla was now determined to finish among the top three in the Spanish league. "Sevilla is a great team and should be playing Champions League every season, not just Europa League," Zokora said.
Also on Sunday, it's: Zaragoza versus Malaga; Sporting Gijon versus Mallorca; Getafe versus Levante; Villarreal versus Espanyol; and Almeria versus Real Sociedad.