Home comfort now beckons for Real Madrid

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/r/realpractice_ap.jpg' class='caption'> League leaders Real Madrid will be glad to get back to their historic Santiago Bernabeu stadium to face near neighbours Getafe on Sunday

Updated: February 22, 2008 17:18 IST
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League leaders Real Madrid will be glad to get back to their historic Santiago Bernabeu stadium to face near neighbours Getafe on Sunday, after two successive defeats away from home in the last week.

Real have a 100 per cent record in La Liga in front of their own fans this season and have banged 33 goals past their opponents with the tally helped by the 7-0 thrashing of Valladolid two weeks ago.

However, last Saturday's loss at Real Betis saw their lead over bitter rivals Barcelona reduced to five points.

"I'm not bothered that Barcelona have cut our advantage, I'm only now thinking about beating Getafe," commented Real defender and 2006 World Player of the Year Fabio Cannavaro on Thursday.

"What we've got to do is play more intelligently in the coming weeks. Against Betis and Roma (in the Champions League on Tuesday) we dominated in every area of the field, fought hard, had lots of opportunities.

"Perhaps now we should play badly and then we'll win," joked Cannavaro.

One of Real's most impressive players in their recent games, despite the losses, has been former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben.

However, with Robinho expected to be fit to face Getafe, Real coach Bernd Schuster has a dilemma about who to play on the left flank.

Schuster will be wondering whether to opt for the Dutchman or the mercurial Brazilian, who was in outstanding form before straining a stomach muscle early in the game against Valladolid.

"I'm starting to enjoy my football again and I'm slowly starting to get back to my best after all my injuries," said Robben on Thursday, clearly hoping to get the nod.

Another man fit again after injury is Portuguese central defender Pepe, which may mean Schuster's moves Gabriel Heinze out to left back.

Getafe coach Michel Laudrup will keep his fingers crossed that not too many of his players will wake up on Friday battered and bruised after their impressive 3-0 win over AEK Athens in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

"This is a difficult period for us. We've not only got the UEFA Cup but also the visit to the Bernabeu and we are also still in the Spanish Cup," reflected Laudrup who, like Schuster, pulled on a Real jersey during his playing days.

Getafe have had an erratic domestic season and lie in 13th place but both Laudrup and Schuster know that the team from Madrid's southern suburbs have the potential to make life uncomfortable for Real.

Real were very fortunate to come home with a 1-0 win at Getafe last September.

"They were actually much better than us in that game," reflected Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas recently.

Getafe also managed to draw 1-1 with Real in the Bernabeu last season.

Second-placed Barcelona will aim to increase the pressure on Real with three points against bottom club Levante earlier on Sunday.

The Catalan club's morale was boosted by an outstanding 3-2 win at Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"There's still a lot of league matches remaining but I prefer not to talk about Real," commented Barca's Spanish international Andres Iniesta on Thursday.

However, one quick glance at the Spanish media makes it clear that everyone in the Nou Camp now believes that they are back in the title race after Real's recent hiccups away from home.

"We've not got to be too over-optimistic though. For instance, in the light of what we did in Glasgow, Levante should be a pushover but everyone knows that there are no easy teams in La Liga," added Iniesta.

Nevertheless, the only league points Barca have dropped at home this season were in their 1-0 loss to Real Madrid in December and it would be an enormous upset if relegation-threatened Levante were even to salvage a draw.

Saturday (Kick off in GMT)

Valencia vs Recreativo Huelva (1900)

Sevilla vs Real Zaragoza (2100)


Athletic Bilbao vs Villarreal (1600)

Deportivo La Coruna vs Espanyol (1600)

Real Mallorca vs Real Betis (1600)

Murcia vs Valladolid (1600)

Osasuna vs Atletico Madrid (1600)

Racing Santander vs Almeria (1600)

Barcelona vs Levante (1800)

Real Madrid vs Getafe (2000)

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