subota, 2. siječnja 2010.

Preview : Osasuna - Real Madrid

Unspectacular

It wouldn’t have been a happy Christmas for the Osasuna players, who will still have had the words of Jose Antonio Camacho ringing in their ears after a 2-0 surrender away to Athletic Bilbao. Within 11 minutes of the start of that fixture they trailed by a couple of goals, and one can only imagine the carnage that may ensue should the Pamplonans afford Real Madrid a similar start on Sunday.

Consistency of any kind has been hard to find for the northerners, who have won only one of their last eight fixtures. As a result Camacho’s men are loitering in mid-table, boasting a flimsy four point cushion over the relegation zone.

Their greatest worry this term has been scoring goals, yet that has not stopped them allowing former Real youth product Javier Portillo departing for Segunda Division outfit Heracles. Having appeared just a couple of times this season in league action, his loss will not be noticeable.

Walter Pandiani will be the man the home side look to for goals, while a young rearguard will be given a thorough examination by the world’s most expensively assembled group of attacking players.

Osasuna must approach this game with the attitude that even a point would be an unexpected bonus.

Targeting A Great 2010

After watching fierce rivals Barcelona sweep all before them in 2009, Real Madrid have already staunchly indicated that their aim is for a trophy laden 2010. Somewhat unsurprisingly the ever-confident Cristiano Ronaldo has been the man to lead such cries.

“Real Madrid will be the best team of 2010. We need to have the drive and motivation to win everything that comes our way,” he told Marca. “Madrid needs to focus on winning the Champions League and La Liga, but it depends on other factors like luck, the draw. But I think we are going to win.”

And things are starting to come together for los Blancos after a difficult start to the campaign, which saw them crash out of the Copa del Rey at the hands of previously unheard of Alcorcon and lost in the Champions League to Milan.

Despite losing the first Clasico of the season 1-0 to Barca, thereby ceding their advantage in La Liga to the Catalan outfit, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have bounced back in style. European progression was booked by way of a success over Olympique de Marseille, while a hat-trick of victories in domestic play have seen them shut the gap to the leaders to just two points.

Los Blancos’ last couple of matches have been especially impressive, with a fine away win over Valencia hinting at their title credentials, which were only enhanced a week later with a thumping 6-0 win over lowly Real Zaragoza.

With such momentum building, los Merengues will be tough to stop.

FORM GUIDE

Osasuna

LOST 2-0 (a) Athletic Bilbao (La Liga, December 20)

LOST 1-0 (h) Mallorca (La Liga, December 13)

DREW 1-1 (a) Malaga (La Liga, December 6)

WON 1-0 (a) Real Zaragoza (La Liga, November 29)

LOST 3-1 (h) Valencia (La Liga, November 22)

Real Madrid

WON 6-0 (h) Real Zaragoza (La Liga, December 19)

WON 3-2 (a) Valencia (La Liga, December 12)

WON 3-1 (a) Olympique de Marseille (Champions League, December 8)

WON 4-2 (h) Almeria (La Liga, December 5)

LOST 1-0 (a) Barcelona (La Liga, November 29)

TEAM NEWS

Osasuna

There are a handful of injury problems for los Rojillos going into Sunday’s encounter. Cesar Azpilicueta, Nacho Monreal and Carlos Aranda all have problems, though all three are considered to have a good chance of taking part.

Sergio Fernandez and Oier are out. The latter is facing three months on the sidelines.

One man who certainly won’t be featuring in the forthcoming encounter is Josexto, who is banned.

Probable Starting XI: Ricardo; Azpilicueta, Roversio, Miguel Flano, Monreal; Juanfran, Nekounam, Punal, Camunas; Pandiani, Aranda

Real Madrid

Kaka grabbed the headlines on New Year’s Eve when he started training with the ball again, though it is uncertain whether he will be able to feature on Sunday. This is also the case with Rafael van der Vaart, who managed to jog on Thursday but otherwise trained individually.

Guti and Ruud van Nistlerooy continue to build their strength in the gym, while Mahamadou Diarra and Pepe are unavailable due to international duty and serious injury respectively.

Probable Starting XI: Casillas; Arbeloa, Garay, Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Lass; Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema; Higuain

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Osasuna

Javad Nekounam recently proclaimed that he wishes to be regarded one day as Osasuna’s best ever player. The Iranian could go some way further to writing his name in the history books with a match-winning performance in the engineroom of the home side.

Real Madrid

Should he play, all eyes will be on the returning Kaka, who missed the tail-end of 2009 due to a sportsman’s hernia. The creative midfielder has thus far failed to live up to hefty summer price-tag and may just have been given a jolt due to Rafael van der Vaart’s performances while he was convalescing.

PREDICTION

Whipping boys to the extent that Zaragoza were a fortnight ago Osasuna should not be, but that does not mean that they will claim a positive result against a Real Madrid team growing in swagger and cohesion. The home side’s only hope is that los Blancos over indulged over Christmas, but don’t count on it.

Osasuna 0-3 Real Madrid

Juventus Follow Real Madrid Midfielder Guti

Juventus are tracking Guti of Real Madrid as an alternative option to Lazio midfielder Cristian Ledesma.

According to Il Corriere Dello Sport, the Old Lady has plan B ready in case Lazio reject a €5 million bid for their man. Should that happen, Juve will abandon Ledesma and focus on bringing in the Madrid midfielder.

The report claims Guti would arrive in Turin on a free loan deal until the end of the season. The Spaniard's experience would be a welcomed addition to a Juve midfield which has appeared fallible at times this season.

Meanwhile, with the club's focus in and around Madrid, Atletico are about to rekindle their interest in Tiago. Los Colchoneros were close to signing him in the summer, only for the move stalled. However, they are now ready to have another throw at the dice for him.

Liverpool In For Real Madrid's Dutch Duo Ruud van Nistelrooy & Rafael van der Vaart

British tabloid The Sun has reported that Liverpool are on the verge of signing Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who could be followed to Anfield by Dutch teammate Rafael van der Vaart.

The latter has enjoyed a unprecedented run of starts with the Spanish capital club, but knows his fate upon Kaka's inevitable return from injury, whilst former Red Devils hitman van Nistelrooy has dropped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu.

He faces stiff competition from Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema. The former has been in insatiable form so far in the season while Florentino Perez's demands of seeing his Galactico purchase see game time will ensure Benzema remains in the frame irrespective of form.

Van der Vaart and van Nistelrooy have set their sights on on a place in Bert van Marwijk's World Cup squad, and both believe that a departure from Madrid will serve their chances of a ticket to South Africa best.

About Real Madrid C.F.

Real Madrid Club de Fútbol , commonly known as Real Madrid (and in Spain, within an adequate context, simply as el Madrid), is a professional football club based in Madrid, Spain. It is the most successful team in Spanish football and was voted by FIFA as the most successful club of the 20th century, having won a record thirty-one La Liga titles, seventeen Spanish Cups, a record nine European Cups and two UEFA Cups. Real was a founding member of FIFA and the now-defunct G–14 group of Europe's leading football clubs as well as its replacement, the European Club Association. The word "Real" in the club's name is the Spanish term for "Royal", and was added in 1920 together with the royal crown in the emblem.

Founded in 1902, Real Madrid has since spent all of its history in the top flight of Spanish football. In the 1940s, the club, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and the Ciudad Deportiva were rebuilt following the Spanish Civil War. The club established itself as a major force in both Spanish and European football during the 1950s. In the 1980s, the club had one of the best teams in Spain and Europe (known as La Quinta del Buitre), winning two UEFA Cups, five Spanish championships in a row, one Spanish cup and three Spanish Super Cups.

The team traditional home colours are all white, although it initially adopted a blue oblique stripe on the shirt. Its crest has been changed several times in attempts to modernise or re-brand; the current crest is a modified version of the one first adopted in the 1920s. Real's home ground is the 80,354-person-capacity Santiago Bernabéu football stadium in downtown Madrid, where it has played since 1947.

Real Madrid holds long-standing rivalries with some other clubs; the most notable of these is with FC Barcelona, the two teams regularly contest in El Clásico. Unlike most European football clubs, Real Madrid's members (socios) have owned and operated the club since its inception. The club is the world's richest football club (€351m) in terms of revenue and the second most valuable (worth over €950m as of 2008).