Arbeloa orders Madrid to regain focus

Real Madrid have little time to dwell on their midweek disappointment against Lyon as they prepare to face Villarreal on Sunday in the first of what could prove a decisive run of home matches.

An off-colour Madrid lost the away leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Lyon 1-0 and they will need to produce a much better performance in the return meeting if they are to avoid tumbling out of the tournament at the same stage for the sixth successive season.

That match is not until next month though, and in the meantime Madrid will need to concentrate their efforts on the league and try to make the most of the problems leaders Barcelona are experiencing.

The first challenge is a clash with coach Manuel Pellegrini's former club Villarreal, which is arguably the biggest test Madrid have had so far at home in La Liga - where they have won 11 out of 11 and kept eight clean sheets.

It will not be Madrid's final test at the Bernabeu though, and their upcoming home matches are likely to determine whether Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will be celebrating any silverware this season.

After the visit of Villarreal come successive league clashes with Sevilla, Sporting Gijon, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

They also have the second leg of their European tie with Lyon during that spell, whilst knowing that if they go all the way to the Champions League final then they will play another key 'home' match as the Bernabeu is the host venue.

Madrid therefore have plenty to play for over the coming months, and as such defender Alvaro Arbeloa insists they have to put the Lyon setback behind them.

"There are three weeks before we play the second leg, so we can't forget that we are also playing for La Liga," he said.

"The Villarreal match is very important. They are a team that are improving all the time. We need to get our game back on track."

Madrid received a huge boost in the title race last weekend when local rivals Atletico become the first team to beat leaders Barca in the league this season.

That helped reduce the gap between the top two to two points, and Barca will be eager to bounce back against Racing Santander at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

Coach Pep Guardiola continues to have a selection headache, though. Last weekend he was without six defensive players through injury and suspension, and this weekend it is the midfield that's the main concern with Xavi, Seydou Keita and possibly Yaya Toure all missing.

Sergio Busquets admits the loss of Xavi is a big blow, saying: "Xavi is a very important player. He sets the rhythm of the match. He's the heart of this Barca team, but let's hope we don't miss him too much."

Aside from Barca's game there are two other matches on Saturday night, with Deportivo La Coruna hosting bottom club Xerez - who are now 10 points from safety - and Sevilla going to Real Mallorca.

Mallorca, who surrendered fourth spot to Sevilla during the last round of matches, will be pleased to be back at home after going down 1-0 to relegation-threatened Tenerife on Monday. Mallorca, like Madrid, boast a 100% record at home.

There are five other matches on Sunday aside from the big showdown at the Bernabeu, with Malaga hosting Espanyol, Sporting going to improving Real Zaragoza, Almeria meeting Atletico, Osasuna hosting second-bottom Real Valladolid and Athletic Bilbao taking on Tenerife.

Tenerife, who have the worst away record in the division with just two points from 10 games, won their first match in over two months with their triumph over fellow islanders Mallorca.

The remaining match is the Monday night fixture between third-placed Valencia and Getafe.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine