Deportivo aims to inflict new blow on MadridPosted: Thursday March 20, 2003 6:46 PM
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Deportivo de La Coruna last visited the Santiago Bernabeu stadium a year ago and ruined Real Madrid's 100th birthday celebrations by winning 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final.
Deportivo returns on Sunday, this time aiming to end Madrid's 28-month unbeaten home record in the Spanish league and boost its own title hopes.
History is not in its favor. Deportivo's only victory in 32 league visits came 57 years ago.
"Madrid will be much more motivated by the defeat in the Copa del Rey. It will see Sunday's match as a way to get revenge. It's going to be tough for us. We're facing possibly the best team in the world. And at its stadium," said Deportivo midfielder Victor Sanchez, who played for Madrid until 1998.
Yet Deportivo has won six of its last seven league matches, and will move level on points with the European champion if it wins.
After 26 games, Madrid has 54 points, followed by Real Sociedad with 53 and Deportivo with 51. Valencia has 46 points.
Madrid reached the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday with a hard-earned victory over Lokomotiv Moscow, while Deportivo, already eliminated, cruised past an inexperienced Manchester United team.
"I think both teams are in good form. We hold the advantage because we're a little less tired. If we can stay strong defensively then we have a good chance of winning," said Deportivo striker Roy Makaay, the league's leading scorer on 20 goals, in an interview with the sports daily Marca.
Makaay may encounter Madrid defender and captain Fernando Hierro, who is set to return after being sidelined since Feb. 8.
Deportivo's 40-year-old defender Donato has made a swift recovery from a knee injury, initially feared to be career-threatening, and may also be available.
On Sunday, Sociedad tests its unbeaten home record this season against 14th-place Villarreal, a victim of Madrid's last weekend.
The Basque team ended a run of three straight away defeats last weekend by beating Racing de Santander.
The victory boosted morale ahead of Sociedad's crucial games against Deportivo and Madrid in the next two weeks.
"Those games will show whether we have a chance of winning the title," said Sociedad's Turkish forward Nihat Kahveci, who lies in second place in the league's scoring chart with 14 goals.
Sociedad will again be without its injured Argentine central defender Gabi Schurrer.
Defending league champion Valencia will be in excellent heart following its 2-1 Champions League win over Arsenal on Wednesday, which secured its passage into the quarterfinals and ousted the Gunners.
Yet Rafa Benitez's team needs to recover from two successive league defeats, which have reduced its chances of retaining its league title.
On Sunday, Valencia hosts 16th-place Espanyol, which moved out of the relegation zone for the first time in seven weeks last weekend.
Valencia striker Miguel Angel "Mista" Ferrer is suspended, while right back Curro Torres and Argentine midfielder Kily Gonzalez are injured.
Ninth-place FC Barcelona will bid to improve on three successive draws when it hosts No. 15 Racing de Santander on Sunday.
However, the Catalan team remains unbeaten in six league matches -- and four Champions League games -- since Radomir Antic took charge last month.
"I'm not worried about the league results. The team is working hard and showing the right attitude. We've had chances to win these games. That's soccer for you," Antic said.
Barcelona, which gained its 13th victory in 14 Champions League matches by beating Newcastle United on Wednesday, may welcome back international defender Carles Puyol after three weeks out but will lack suspended Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta.
Santander will be without injured forward Pedro Munitis and suspended French midfielder Mehdi Nafti.
Other 27th-round matches this weekend are: Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico de Madrid; Celta de Vigo vs. Athletic de Bilbao; Malaga vs. Real Betis; Recreativo de Huelva vs. Osasuna; Mallorca vs. Valladolid; and Sevilla vs. Alaves.
Saez calls up Sevilla's Navarro for qualifiers
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Spanish coach Inaki Saez issued Sevilla central defender Javi Navarro with a first call-up when he announced Thursday his 19-man roster for the national soccer team's Euro 2004 matches against Ukraine and Armenia.
Deportivo de La Coruna midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron and Valencia defender Carlos Marchena returned to the squad after missing recent matches through injury.
Atletico de Madrid striker Jose Mari Romero was dropped, while FC Barcelona defender Carlos Puyol was also left out after being sidelined for the last three weeks with a broken eye socket.
Saez's team, which has six points from its first two Euro 2004 matches, plays Ukraine in Kiev on March 29 and then hosts Armenia in Leon on April 2.
Navarro, 29, stands to become Sevilla's first international player since 1991. Sevilla boasts the Spanish first division's best defensive record this season, with 18 goals conceded in 26 matches.
He may replace Spain's first-choice central defender, Real Madrid's Ivan Helguera, who is suspended for the Ukraine match.
Striker Raul Gonzalez, who became his country's all-time top scorer with 31 goals when Spain beat Germany last month, was one of five Real Madrid players in the squad. Valencia also had five players selected.
Saez is unbeaten in six games since he replaced Jose Antonio Camacho after last year's World Cup. Spain
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Santiago Canizares (Valencia).
Defenders: Raul Bravo (Leeds United), Agustin Aranzabal (Real Sociedad), Javi Navarro (Sevilla), Cesar Martin (Deportivo La Coruna), Michel Salgado (Real Madrid), Carlos Marchena (Valencia).
Midfielders: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Joaquin Sanchez (Betis), Ivan Helguera (Real Madrid), Joseba Etxeberria (Athletic Bilbao), David Albelda, Ruben Baraja and Vicente Rodriguez (Valencia), Juan Carlos Valeron (Deportivo de La Coruna).
Forwards; Diego Tristan (Deportivo La Coruna), Jose Maria 'Guti' Gutierrez and Raul Gonzalez (Real Madrid).
Real hopes to avoid fratricidal quarterfinal
MADRID (Reuters) -- Real Madrid would like to avoid an all-Spanish Champions League quarterfinal but if they are handed a fratricidal clash in Friday's draw the players are more keen to face unpredictable Barcelona than consistent Valencia.
Real made it through to the quarterfinals by claiming second place in Group C, meaning they will face one of the three group winners, Barcelona, Valencia or Manchester United, in the quarterfinals.
The reigning European champions have good recent records against all three sides, having beaten Barcelona in last year's semi-finals and Manchester United in the quarterfinals in 2000, followed by Valencia in the final.
"All three are among the biggest teams there are," striker Guti said on the eve of the draw.
"If I had to pick I'd prefer to face Barcelona or Manchester United. Between those two, it would be the English side because they play good football and they let you play. That gives you more chances.
"A meeting between two Spanish sides would make life more difficult for both of us and Valencia are the toughest of all three sides."
Portuguese forward Luis Figo would also like to avoid a meeting with either Valencia or his former club Barcelona.
"Manchester United would be my choice," Figo said. "I don't want to meet another Spanish side.
Real coach Vicente del Bosque is less concerned about being drawn against another Spanish side, however.
"I really don't care," Del Bosque told Marca newspaper. "We're all in Europe and you don't even look to see if your opponents are Spanish or not. You have to beat them all."