Real Madrid eye record

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID:

Real Madrid can set a club record by ex­tend­ing their un­beaten run to 35 games when De­portivo la Coruna visit the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu to­day. De­portivo’s last visit to Real was Zine­dine Zi­dane’s first match in charge back in Jan­uary and the 5-0 thrash­ing of the Gali­cians was a sign of things to come in a dream de­but year for the French­man as a se­nior coach. Madrid haven’t tasted de­feat since April, win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League, UEFA Su­per Cup and open­ing up a six-point La Liga lead over Barcelona in the process. “You have to con­grat­u­late the play­ers,” in­sisted Zi­dane humbly af­ter Madrid had to set­tle for qual­i­fy­ing for the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League in sec­ond place be­hind Borus­sia Dort­mund on Wed­nes­day.

“They are the ones that are on the pitch, that have to fight and run.” Los Blan­cos will be look­ing for the per­fect end to their La Liga cam­paign for 2016 as they head for the Club World Cup in Ja­pan on Sun­day. How­ever, De­portivo have also been buoyed by a surprise 5-1 romp over high-flying Real Sociedad on Mon­day to reg­is­ter a first league win since early October and move out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone in the process.

“I am al­ways optimistic and I am go­ing there with the hope of get­ting some­thing from the game,” said De­portivo boss Gaizka Gar­i­tano. “We are in the more des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion and we are not go­ing to the Bern­abeu just to make up the num­bers.” Madrid are at full strength bar the ab­sence of Gareth Bale. Toni Kroos and Al­varo Mo­rata made their re­turn from in­jury in the 2-2 with Dort­mund in mid­week and are likely to fea­ture once more, whilst Ma­teo Ko­vacic could be re­called af­ter be­ing rested on Wed­nes­day. Barcelona can cut the gap to three points be­fore Madrid kick-off with vic­tory at rock bot­tom Osasuna ear­lier to­day. Af­ter the blow of con­ced­ing a last minute equalizer to Madrid in last week­end’s El Cla­sico, Barca got back to win­ning ways with a morale boost­ing 4-0 thrash­ing of Borus­sia Moenchengla dbach on Tues­day. Cru­cially the re­turn­ing An­dres Ini­esta has starred in his first two ap­pear­ances af­ter a six-week in­jury lay­off over the past week.With their captain re­stored, the Cata­lans looked like the Barca of old by reg­is­ter­ing a com­pe­ti­tion record 993 passes against the Ger­mans in mid­week. “The most im­por­tant thing is that the team con­tin­ues to be­lieve in what it does and how it does it,” said Ini­esta.

“I am con­vinced we will get to the fi­nal months of the sea­son in the hunt for all the tro­phies.” Ney­mar is sus­pended so Arda Tu­ran is ex­pected to dep­u­tize along­side Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in at­tack af­ter net­ting a hat-trick against Moenchenglad­bach. Sevilla were the one Span­ish side not as­sured of their place in the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 be­fore this week, but ground out a 0-0 draw at Lyon to progress.

How­ever, strug­gles on the road have been a com­mon theme for Jorge Sam­paoli’s men as de­spite ly­ing third in La Liga, seven points adrift of Real, they have won just four of their 12 away games this sea­son. The Europa League hold­ers will be keen to make amends for a shock 2-1 de­feat at Granada last week­end and main­tain a two-point lead over Atletico Madrid when they travel to Celta Vigo on Sun­day. Atletico aren’t in ac­tion un­til Mon­day when they visit six­th­placed Villarreal in a cru­cial clash in the fight to qual­ify for next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League. — AFP

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