In-form Real will fight to bitter end, says Ramos
MADRID (AFP) –
After a slow start to the defence of their La Liga crown Real Madrid have clicked into gear and defender Sergio Ramos says they will keep chasing their arch-rivals Barcelona to the end.
With Cristiano Ronaldo once again firing on all cylinders and the rest of the team having rediscovered their form, Madrid have won four of their last five league games.
The only dropped points came a draw at the Camp Nou against a relentless Barcelona who continue to churn out victories.
At the same time though that draw was the only game that Barca have failed to win all season.
“The challenge of catching Barcelona gives us motivation. We will keep fighting for this championship until the last game of the season and we will be in the reckoning,” said Ramos.
“There are two teams that are at the top at the moment, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, but our job is to win our games and put the pressure on them. Last weekend we had an important victory against Mallorca, in a difficult stadium and that has made us more positive.”
Madrid now take on Zaragoza having beaten Mallorca 5-0 with Ronaldo grabbing two.
This matched Barca’s 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano where Lionel Messi also hit a brace and he continues to lead the way in the league with 13 goals. Barca now face Celta Vigo.
The Argentine was quick to laugh off rumours that spread following an on-field spat with David Villa against Granada, that his teammates felt he had become too cocky in the dressing room.
“Like a sort of dictator? I don’t care what is said because the players know that I am not like that. It is a privilege to be part of the best Barcelona side ever. Not just for what we have won but because of the way we play,” he said.
“There was a fuss made of what happened (with Villa) but it obviously was just a small incident on the pitch and nothing more. We get on well as I do with all in the dressing room.”
Radamel Falcao has taken some of the protagonism away from Messi and Ronaldo with his prowess in front of goal as he scored in his tenth consecutive game for Atletico Madrid who beat Osasuna to keep them level on points with Barca at the top.
They now play Valencia and although it is still early days in the championship race Atletico do have the quality and strength in depth to push the top two this season.
Malaga have also started well with their only defeat so far coming against Atletico and they now entertain Rayo Vallecano.
Real Betis, who travel to Getafe, have compromised some of their attacking flair for a more solid defence which has paid dividends so far as they sit in fifth, level on points with Levante, who have a tricky away match against Sevilla.
Athletic Bilbao remain a shadow of the side which received rave reviews for their open attacking football which took them to the final of the Europa League and the King’s Cup and they will be hoping for an improvement against Granada while Deportivo la Coruna play Mallorca.
At the bottom of the table Osasuna are up against Valladolid and Espanyol visit Real Sociedad.
Fixtures: (Kick-off times GMT)
Malaga v Rayo Vallecano (1500), Barcelona v Celta Vigo (1700), Real Madrid v Zaragoza (1900), Valencia v Atletico Madrid (2100)
Real Sociedad v Espanyol (1100), Deportivo la Coruna v Mallorca (1500), Osasuna v Valladolid (1650), Granada v Athletic Bilbao (1845), Sevilla v Levante (2030)
Getafe v Betis (2030)