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La Liga weekend preview

Real Madrid believe they have found the right formula to ensure they keep at bay the demons that troubled them at the end of 2012.

Last Updated: 11/01/13 at 08:39 Post Comment

Ricardo Carvalho: Wants to start well

Ricardo Carvalho: Wants to start well

Jose Mourinho's men have failed to mount a strong defence of their title - they head into this weekend's trip to bottom side Osasuna 16 points behind Barcelona - and off-field matters have dominated the headlines.

Mourinho's future has been a consistent talking point, especially after his decision to drop goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but two four-goal wins to start the year have lightened the mood somewhat.

And, according to experienced defender Ricardo Carvalho, better starts to games are helping his side.

"It's important to start the matches off well like we are now," the former Chelsea man told realmadrid.com after a morale-boosting 4-0 win over Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

"We did a good job and scoring first gave us more confidence."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick and Carvalho added: "He's in good form and we're happy.

"January doesn't stop and we're continuing in Copa, Champions and Liga, but we have to take it step by step and try to win it all."

Athletic Bilbao kick the weekend's action off on Friday night when they host Rayo Vallecano, needing a win to arrest a two-game losing run.

The in-form Franjirrojos will pose a tough test, though, with Paco Jemez's men having won their last three games.

"We're having a good run of results and games," goalkeeper Ruben said.

"For three consecutive victories we have not gone so far in the league, but we are very happy.

"But that is in the past and we must think that Athletic will be very complicated to play against."

Barcelona face a tough trip to Malaga on Sunday night, where Tito Vilanova's men will come up against a side fourth in the table and playing with confidence.

"We've now got to focus on Sunday's league match against Barcelona, which will mark the end of the first round of the season," manager Manuel Pellegrini said.

"It's such an important match for us and hopefully we can get at least another point, or ideally three.

"We'll be determined to win this game from the start."

Second-placed Atletico Madrid will continue their pursuit of Barca, even if they trail them by nine points, against Real Zaragoza on Sunday, while Espanyol will look to recover from their 4-0 loss in the Catalan derby when they take on Celta Vigo.

Valencia and Sevilla meet in a battle of two sides to have found the going harder than expected this season - Los Che are in eighth and Sevilla 12th - while Real Betis play host to Levante.

Second-bottom Deportivo la Coruna head to Real Sociedad to take on a side who scored three against Real Madrid last weekend, while Valladolid are at home to Mallorca.

In Monday's game Getafe take on Granada, with the latter looking to pull away from the bottom of the table.

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o Brendan is full of sh!t, who'd have thought it eh?

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Carroll accuses Rodgers

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resumably, you wanted to keep the version of Downing that was never seen at Anfield. The one that another manager has managed to re-create. The one you passed over.

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Rodgers: I wanted to keep Downing

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he uber commercialisation of the 90s has led to the point where this overly familar, try hard, jolly hockey sticks type fronts up a major football match on a weekly basis. Unlike the great presenters of yesteryear, I doubt he would even recognise the scent of Brut.

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Football On TV: Jake Humphrey

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