My Soccer World

Football: Real Close On Barca But Injuries Worry Schuster

Posted on: November 23, 2008

MADRID – Real Madrid’s embattled coach Bernd Schuster was happy to close to within two points of leaders Barcelona with a 1-0 home win over Recreativo Huelva on Saturday but admitted the growing injury list at the Santiago Bernabeu was a major concern.

A deflected shot from Wesley Sneijder on 39 minutes ensured Schuster’s 50th league match in charge of Real was a win to ease the pressure but it was not all good news with Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain spraining his ankle.

“The result was important although not flattering enough for the chances we had,” said Schuster.

“The bad news for us is Higuain has sprained his ankle. I hope he will be back for us soon as we can’t continue like this (with so many injuries). It is harming us a lot and we can’t compete on all fronts.

“It is difficult to find an explanation because almost all of the injuries are coming from matches. We can’t be in this situation in November.”

Real move into second above Villarreal, who lost 3-0 at home to Valladolid, and now trail Barcelona by two points although Pep Guardiola’s side have a game in hand against Getafe on Sunday.

Villarreal fell to their first league defeat since April with Valladolid surprise 3-0 winners at El Madrigal.

Jonathan Sesma scored a brace (24 min, 43) and Luis Prieto added a third in a sensational first half as Valladolid, who beat Real Madrid 1-0 last weekend, took another big scalp.

In fact Valladolid are becoming a bogey team for Villarreal having crushed them 5-1 on their own ground in a pre-season friendly.

Villarreal slip to third, a point behind Real and three adrift of Barca, and their first defeat of the campaign is a setback ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League home match against Manchester United.

“It was a dark day for us,” admitted Villarreal coach Pellegrini. “There may have been a lot of reasons for what happened and maybe the international matches was one. However, we should have been focused and we weren’t. They ended up winning quite easily.

“The important thing now is to improve our performance and focus on Champions League qualification.”

Real are also in European action and travel to BATE Borisov for Tuesday’s Champions League match which they need to win after losing home and away to Juventus.

Real sit second in group H, four points behind Juventus, but Russians Zenit St. Petersburg are breathing down their necks just two points behind.

With nine minutes gone, Recreativo’s Javier Camunas should have put his side ahead but blazed over the crossbar from close to the penalty spot.

The shambolic defending prompted a chorus of jeers from the impatient home crowd but Real upped their game and almost went ahead two minutes later.

Gonzalo Higuain went clean through but his scuffed shot was cleared by a back-pedalling defender and when Sneijder scored with the follow up, his celebrations were cut short when the referee blew up for the ball going out of play.

However, Dutch international Sneijder would not be denied and five minutes before the break his deflected shot looped over goalkeeper Asier Riesgo.

It proved enough for the win but there was a downside with Higuain spraining his ankle and with Ruud van Nistelrooy out for the season options up front are limited.

Leaders Barcelona are seeking a tenth successive league victory when they host Getafe at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Two other title contenders clash later on Saturday when Sevilla host Valencia. Sevilla are two places below Valencia in fifth but both sides are level on 23 points.

– AFP /ls

Channel News Asia

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