Real Madrid under pressure to end Riazor hoodoo

Updated: 2007-01-05 09:05

MADRID, Jan 4 - Real Madrid have the option of using new signings Fernando Gago and Gonzalo Higuain on Sunday when they try to end a 15-year hoodoo at Deportivo Coruna in their first league game of 2007.

Fabio Capello's side ended last year with a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Recreativo Huelva and need to notch their first win at the Riazor since November 1991 to stay in touch with Sevilla and Barcelona.

Once again Real have been the biggest spenders in the transfer market, splashing out close to 40 million euros ($52.69 million) on central midfielder Gago, teenage striker Higuain and Brazilian left back Marcelo.

Although the Argentine pair have only taken part in a handful of training sessions since their arrival, Capello could give them a run out in an attempt to revitalise his third-placed team.

With Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy doubtful due to a thigh problem, Higuain could feature up front while Gago may partner Emerson or Mahamadou Diarra in the centre of midfield.

Depor, in a transition phase having sold several experienced players over the past two seasons, are having a difficult time and lie four points above the relegation zone in 15th place.

They have not won in nine games, conceding 10 goals and scoring none in their last three outings.


Despite Depor's poor form, Real also know they must improve on their last display.

"We finished the year very badly and the match against Recreativo was a disaster," said centre back Fabio Cannavaro earlier this week.

"The good thing about football is that on Sunday we'll have another chance to get it right and play well."

Sevilla, three points clear at the top of the table, face a tricky trip to fifth-placed Real Zaragoza on Saturday.

The leaders have added Alexander Kerzhakov to their squad but the Russian striker will find it tough to make the first team given the outstanding form of Frederic Kanoute this season.

The Mali international leads the scoring charts with 14 goals and has found the net in each of the last four games.

Second-placed Barcelona, three points behind Sevilla with a game in hand, will be without suspended Ronaldinho and Deco plus injured defenders Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram at Bernd Schuster's Getafe on Sunday.

Valencia look for their fourth win on the trot at an out-of-sorts Villarreal on Sunday, the same day as Real Betis host Celta Vigo in Luis Fernandez's first game as coach.

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