Real gear up for Osasuna ahead of Barca clash

December 15, 2007

MADRID, December 15 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid go in search of the victory against Osasuna that will not only ensure they stay as leaders heading into the Christmas break, but will also give them an ideal springboard into next week's titanic showdown with Barcelona.

Media attention for the Nou Camp battle between arch-rivals Real and Barca - who are currently the leading two teams in the division - has been steadily building over the last few weeks, with Real threatening to run away with the league.

However, both clubs have hugely important matches before that contest, with Real having the possibility of being a massive 10 points clear of their old foes going into 2008 if results go their way over the next week.

On the other hand, if fortune favours Barcelona over the next two rounds of fixtures then they could replace Real in top spot and boast a two-point advantage in the process, which is why Bernd Schuster's men cannot afford a slip-up at home to Osasuna.

In-form Real forward Robinho said: 'We have one league match and one cup match before we play Barca. We have other important matches to play first.

'It's a special match (against Barca) and a good fight every year, but first we have to think about Osasuna.'

Coach Schuster, whose side currently boast a four-point lead over Barca and have won seven out of seven at home this season, added: 'Tomorrow is simply another league match, that's all, and we have to try to win, like we always do.

'Osasuna are in good form and will be a difficult opponent. We have to concentrate on ourselves, take the three points and, after the match, think about the Copa del Rey (against Alicante). We must concentrate hard and take advantage of the good moment we are going through.'

Schuster welcomes back Gabriel Heinze and Royston Drenthe but Christoph Metzelder, Javier Balboa and Arjen Robben are all out injured.

Dutchman Robben has been badly hit with injuries since joining Real this summer, and Schuster said: 'He's had a couple of problems this week, but he trained with the rest of the team today and feels much better.

'The problem we have with Robben is that he wants to play and prove that he's ready. That anxiety has played against him. It's nothing serious, but we have to control it.'

Osasuna began the season poorly, but have gradually improved over the last few games.

The Pamplona-based side are now unbeaten in four matches, having beaten Deportivo La Coruna, drawn their last two Primera Liga matches against Sevilla and Valencia, and defeated Real Mallorca in the Copa del Rey in midweek.

Despite their improvement, Jose Angel Ziganda's side sit just three points clear of the relegation zone and the coach knows his team must continue their recent form.

'We are on a good run and we need to continue to play in the same serious way. If we do that, we will move clear of the bottom three,' he said.

Ziganda has named a 19-man squad for the trip to the capital, with seven players missing - injured quartet Walter Pandiani, Cesar Cruchaga, Igotz Garde and Javad Nekounam, the suspended Patxi Punal, and Juanfran and Javi Garcia, who cannot play against their former club.