Villa aiming to show Real exactly what they missed

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The Independent Football

The Real Madrid gravy train could be derailed again tonight when La Liga's big spenders face Valencia. With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Kaka injured, Madrid face an on-form David Villa who has a point to prove after Real president Florentino Perez blocked his move to the club in the summer.

Money was no object when Real paid €90million for Ronaldo and €65m for Kaka but they quibbled over five million when it came to signing Villa and the deal collapsed. Valencia, who knew they couldn't sell the player to England because he had refused to move outside of Spain, told Madrid they wanted €30m plus €15m-rated striker Alvaro Negredo, but Real offered just €25m plus the forward and ended up signing Karim Benzema from Lyons instead.

With 11 goals this season Villa is La Liga's leading scoring but he has never scored against Madrid at the Mestalla. There might be a glance up towards the directors' box if he nets in a home win tonight.

"It's always special to score against Madrid because you know that it is a game that gets seen by so many people," said the player who has since changed his mind on playing in the Premier League and will almost certainly be sold at the end of the season.

Team-mate David Albelda said: "After seeing what they paid for Benzema, Kaka and Ronaldo I can assure you that Villa's price is a lot closer to the price of the Portuguese than the other two. He is one of the best strikers in the world."

Albelda will line-up against Xabi Alonso in midfield in tonight's game. The former Liverpool man passed himself fit and believes Madrid need to learn to win without Ronaldo."We need to try to play in exactly the same way regardless of whether he is in the team," he said.

Valencia could move level on points with Real if they beat them. Both trail Barcelona, who play the Catalan derby at home to Espanyol, probably without the injured Leo Messi, before travelling to Abu Dhabi to play the World Club Championship.

Barcelona have failed to win the tournament in their previous two attempts but go looking for what would be their sixth major trophy this year following the Spanish and European Super Cups they added to last season's treble.

Pep talks needed

Despite his extraordinary success since taking over at Barcelona Pep Guardiola is yet to sign an extension to the two-year deal that runs out at the end of the season. In what is his first job as a first-team coach Guardiola accepted a deal worth just €1.5m plus bonuses when he took over 18 months ago. Barcelona's success since then has bumped his earnings up to around €4m but that figure is still well short of most top European coaches. Club sources say Guardiola is waiting to see who wins the presidential elections next May before committing his future. Yesterday, however, he suggested it was the club who needed to make the first move, saying he was ready to sit down with current president Joan Laporta, "when he wants to".

Ramos off target

Wishful thinking from Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos this week when he said: "Barcelona don't seem to be playing the same football as last season." Their first goal over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday involved a build-up of 20 consecutive passes played in 55 seconds before Xavi Hernandez scored.

Spotlight on...Freddie Kanouté

When a 27-year-old Freddie Kanouté left Spurs four years ago to join Seville it looked like the early winding down of a career that had also taken in Lyons and West Ham. Two Uefa Cups, a European Super Cup, a Spanish Super Cup and a Spanish Kings Cup later, Kanouté is still scoring on the big stage. If he bags a goal tomorrow against Sporting Gijon it will be his 100th for the club. His continued form was enough to inspire Harry Redknapp to watch him back when Portsmouth had money to spend. A goal every two games has made him the most prolific non-Spaniard to play for Seville.

Everybody’s talking about...Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho's relationship with the Italian press is at an all-time low and yesterday Internazionale cancelled their pre-match press conference. Mourinho would not have spoken anyway because he is suspended for tomorrow's trip to Atalanta but it was seen as a response to another few days of prickly exchanges. "There are coaches who when they are sacked have trouble finding work but if I left Inter I would find work when and where I wanted," said Mourinho in midweek in response to the suggestion that failing to qualify for the next round of the Champions League would have seen him fired. He added: "Last year we won the league and this year we are top. I thought in Italy, all that mattered was results. That seems to apply to everyone but me."

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