Real keen to banish memories of Espanyol debacle
The superstitious among Real Madrid fans
will be keeping their fingers crossed before Sunday's league match at
Espanyol (kickoff 1800 GMT).
Last year the nine-times European champions went to Montjuic for the
third league match of the season on the back of a 3-0 midweek defeat in
the Champions League to Bayer Leverkusen.
Coach Jose Antonio Camacho watched his side lose 1-0 after an appalling
performance and then decided to throw in the towel, apparently deciding
his players were unmanageable.
Real head into the match against Espanyol this time around in even worse
They were fortunate to beat Primera Liga newcomers Cadiz 2-1 in the
opening game of the season and lost 3-2 at home to another promoted side,
Celta Vigo, last weekend.
They were then put to the sword 3-0 by Olympique Lyon in their opening
Champions League match on Tuesday, September 13, Spain's equivalent to
Friday the 13th.
With the club having spent almost 90 million euros ($110.5 million) on
new signings in the close season, manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo has
become the target for heavy criticism.
The former Santos coach has been condemned for his decision to play
several of his key players out of position and for insisting the team
adopts a Brazilian-style tactical formation without "extremos" (wingers).
His decision to move new signing Julio Baptista to an unaccustomed slot
on the left and to play David Beckham in a narrow right position has
congested the midfield and made it difficult for the club's powerful
forward line to shine.
But the feisty Luxemburgo has no intention of following Camacho's
example and walking away from the club.
"I'm certainly not going to throw out a system just because of what
happened this week," he said. "I'm not going to change because people
criticise it -- just take a look at my record and the trophies I've won."
Despite his comments, Luxemburgo may well include ball-playing
midfielder Guti at the expense of the more destructive Thomas Gravesen,
while the team will be boosted by the return of Ronaldo after the
Brazilian missed the Lyon match through suspension.
Although much of the attention will be on Real Madrid, the most
appetising fixture of the weekend will see champions Barcelona travel to
Atletico Madrid on Sunday (2000 GMT).
Barcelona were the only one of four Spanish sides in the Champions
League to win their opening match and will be keen to beat an Atletico
side who held them to 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture last season.
Only two Primera Liga sides still have a 100 percent record after two
games of the season and both hail from Galicia.
A rejuvenated Celta will be favourites to hold on to the leadership when
they host Racing Santander, who have yet to earn a point, while
Deportivo Coruna will face a tougher task in preserving their record
when they visit Valencia.