Sevilla eye double over distracted Real
Having already fallen victim to one team revived by the arrival of a new coach, Real Madrid face another when Unai Emery's Sevilla visit the Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday..
Granada coach Lucas Alcaraz marked his debut with a shock 1-0 win over the misfiring champions last weekend, and with Jose Mourinho's side distracted by the return of Champions League action next Wednesday, it is Emery's turn to try his luck.
The former Valencia and Spartak Moscow coach was brought in to replace Michel four weeks ago, and has inspired a turnaround in Sevilla's fortunes.
He has guided them into the King's Cup semifinals, where they trail 2-1 to Atletico Madrid from the first leg, and to one draw and two wins in the league, though they still lie only 11th in the standings.
"The coach has played a major part in the improvement in the style of play and the results," Sevilla coach Jose Maria del Nido told the club website (www.sevillafc.es)
Sevilla defeated Real 1-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan back in September, one of the five league defeats Real have suffered this season, but Del Nido was cool on their chances in the capital.
"We beat them at home this year, but it's very difficult to beat them in Madrid," he said.
Third-placed Real trail leaders Barcelona by 16 points, and second-placed Atletico Madrid by seven, and Mourinho has already written off their chances of retaining their league crown.
He has turned his focus instead to the King's Cup, where they have reached the semifinals, and the Champions League which returns to the Bernabeu next Wednesday, when Manchester United visit for a last-16 first leg match.
Real are racing to recover injured players in time.
Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas has had the cast removed from his hand after finger surgery but remains out of action. However, defender Pepe returned to training with the group on Wednesday after a month out following ankle surgery.
Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso and France defender Rafael Varane both withdrew from international call ups with injuries and are working on their respective recoveries.
Barca are at home to Getafe on Sunday and Atletico visit city rivals Rayo Vallecano.
Real Mallorca are looking for a 'bounce' after bringing back Gregorio Manzano for a third spell as coach at the Balearic Island club this week following the sacking of Joaquin Caparros.
After four straight defeats, Mallorca are 19th and host fellow strugglers Osasuna on Saturday.
They will hope to emulate Espanyol, who since parting company with Mauricio Pochettino in November have steadily pulled away from the bottom of La Liga.
New coach Javier Aguirre has guided them to 14th with only one defeat in their last nine matches, against the leaders. Espanyol visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday