Mourinho puts party on hold as derby looms

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid, having broken one hoodoo, will hope to extend another this weekend as they face their city neighbours Atletico tomorrow.

Madrid beat Lyons 3-0 to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years on Wednesday, and must now seek to continue their domination over Atletico. Madrid have not lost to their closest rivals since 1999 – a stretch of 20 matches that includes five consecutive victories.

Cristiano Ronaldo returned from a left-thigh injury to play 74 minutes against Lyons and expects to be available. "I'm sure that within two days I'll be ready to play against Atletico," Ronaldo said yesterday.

Real's manager, Jose Mourinho, again criticised the league's scheduling as Madrid played for the third time in eight days. "There's no time to party or to recover, we have a game on Saturday," said Mourinho after Wednesday's victory.

Atletico have scored only once in three defeats to Mourinho-led Madrid, who also knocked them out of the Copa del Rey. "We know it's been an irregular season but it's important not to lose points in the league and right now we're on a run where we haven't dropped many," said the Atletico striker Sergio Aguero, whose team are unbeaten in five games. "Our [season] form doesn't matter too much for a game like this, which is always special for both clubs."

Barcelona face Getafe earlier tomorrow. The defending champions lead Madrid by five points in La Liga but could be without a number of injured players, including the France defender Eric Abidal, who had surgery on a liver tumour yesterday.

Lionel Messi and the full-backs Daniel Alves and Adriano are recovering from knocks while Pedro Rodriguez is a "serious doubt" to play at the Nou Camp. The defender Carles Puyol has been out for nearly two months with a knee injury.

Barcelona are looking to set a club record of 27 consecutive games without defeat ahead of away games next month with Villarreal and Madrid.

While the league title remains for Barcelona or Madrid's taking for the seventh straight season, Valencia and Villarreal have maintained a healthy lead in the final two qualifying places for next season's Champions League with the pair duelling for third and automatic qualification.

Third-placed Valencia lead Villarreal by three points going into Sunday's game against Seville, while Villarreal enjoy a nine-point advantage over sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao before their meeting.

Valencia's 4-0 defeat to Zaragoza after their Champions League exit to Schalke last week led the forward Juanma Mata to call on the team to get over their European disappointment quickly. "Unfortunately, the loss in Germany has weighed on us more than we expected since we were so close to getting through," the Spain international said of the 4-2 aggregate defeat. "Against Zaragoza we weren't 100 per cent, physically or mentally. Now we realise we can't dwell on it."

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan continued to weigh on the Mallorca midfielder Akihiro Ienaga, who has made himself available to club and country despite seeing the problems escalate in his native country daily.

"I don't have much news. My family and friends are out of danger but there are still so many people missing and that's worrying," Ienaga said. "We're in a very complicated moment knowing the situation is life or death and the least important thing right now is a game."

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