Jose Mourinho will attempt to turn up the pressure on Barcelona tonight with a win over Levante that will put Real Madrid just two points behind the leaders and extend the manager's unbeaten home run to nine years.
After Arsène Wenger's Arsenal gave Barcelona a Champions League headache in midweek, there are signs that Pep Guardiola's slim squad is struggling to cope with competitions on all three fronts ahead of their home tie against Athletic Bilbao tomorrow.
Not since succumbing 3-2 to Beira Mar in February 2002, when he was manager of Porto, has Mourinho lost a home game, winning 122 of 147 matches played and only conceding 87 goals.
Levante took a point from Real earlier in the season and are on a run of three straight wins but Mourinho's Madrid have won all 11 of their home league games so far this season.
Manchester City loanee Emmanuel Adebayor could be rested along with Alvaro Arbeloa as Mourinho leaves out players he wants in his starting line-up next Tuesday against Lyons in the Champions League. The manager has confirmed that Real Madrid have already agreed a price for the Togo striker should they decide to buy him at the end of the season. Mourinho has also praised Arbeloa, who will sits out his first game this year tomorrow.
"He never gives me any nasty surprises," said Mourinho of Arbeloa. "When he is on the pitch I know that I don't have to worry. He is usually marking the opposition's best player and they don't normally get a kick."
Barcelona will make a late decision on Carles Puyol for their game against Bilbao. He had been scheduled to return to the starting line-up, but Gerard Pique's yellow card against Arsenal has ruled him out of the Champions League second leg, and Puyol may now be given longer to recover to ensure his fitness for the return at the Nou Camp on 8 March.
In Italy, Internazionale find themselves in the same position as Real, trailing leaders Milan by five points but with the chance to bridge the gap temporarily, if they can beat Cagliari tonight. Inter have won eight of their 10 games under Leonardo and are now right back in the title race.
Gennaro Gattuso is likely to start on the bench for Milan tomorrow as they face Chievo away. Antonio Cassano is likely to return to the starting line-up.Reuse content