PREVIEW-Soccer-Fragile Valencia steel themselves for Real visit
November 23, 2006 7:36pm CST
Valencia hope their 2-0 midweek win over Olympiakos in the Champions League will be the key to ending a worrying backward slide in the Primera Liga. The victory was a welcome boost ahead of the visit of Real Madrid on Sunday, after more than a month of injury setbacks, morale-sapping displays and press reports of discord behind the scenes. Quique Sanchez Flores's side have taken only five points from the last 18 in the league, have slipped down to eighth in the table, and have their medical teams working overtime to try to deal with the string of injuries they have suffered. Leading scorer David Villa limped off on Wednesday night to join the lengthy list of casualties but Sanchez Flores believes the victory will stiffen the side's resolve if not their injury-prone bodies. "This win will raise the team's spirits and improve our self-esteem before Real visit us," he said. Valencia players Asier del Horno, Emiliano Moretti, Jaime Gavilan, Carlos Marchena, David Navarro, Edu and David Albelda are all out with injuries, David Silva is suspended and Villa looks doubtful. But on a positive note winger Vicente looks set to return, and the club always seem to raise themselves against Real. They have only lost once to the nine-times European champions in the last three seasons. EXTRA INCENTIVE Add to that the extra incentive striker Fernando Morientes will have to prove himself against his former club and Real know they will have a game on their hands. Real, who are third three points behind leaders Barcelona, have only beaten one side in the top half of the table and have looked vulnerable at the back recently. Fabio Capello's side have playmaker Guti suspended and will be without injured Ronaldo and David Beckham. Tuesday's 2-2 home draw with Olympique Lyon also left Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson, Ivan Helguera and Antonio Cassano in need of treatment. Barcelona are still not the team they were last season but continue to set the pace in the league despite losing Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Javier Saviola to injury. They have scored seven in their last two league games and beat Levski Sofia 2-0 away in the Champions League on Wednesday. They receive ninth-placed Villarreal in the Nou Camp on Saturday, who have just lost in-form Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci to a knee ligament injury. On Sunday, second-placed Sevilla are away at struggling Athletic Bilbao, who have yet to win a game at home this season in five attempts Celta Vigo host fourth-placed Zaragoza and fifth-placed Atletico Madrid are at home to bottom club Real Sociedad, who have not won a game all season.