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Nov 4, 2005

Leaders Osasuna look for improvement on the road

MADRID, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Osasuna head into Saturday's match at Real Sociedad (kickoff 1600 GMT) determined not to let their new-found status as Primera Liga leaders go to their heads.

The Navarrans are top thanks to a flawless record at their El Sadar stadium where they have won all six matches this season, but they have chalked up just one victory on the road and coach Javier Aguirre will not let his players forget it.

'To be honest we have played badly away from home,' the straight-talking Mexican said this week.

'We were awful against Sevilla and (Real) Zaragoza and had just 45 decent minutes against Barcelona. We need a massive improvement.

'Our leadership is a mere anecdote just as it would be if Barcelona or Real were in the relegation zone and I don't know how long it will last.

'We know that we are a very average team if we don't battle away and run hard. We can't afford to relax.'

Opponents Sociedad were crushed 5-0 at Barcelona last week, but the Basques are unbeaten at home this season and their in-form strike combination of Darko Kovacevic and Nihat Kahveci is sure to provide a stiff test for the leaders.

BARCA DEMOLITION

Second-placed Barcelona, on a high after their 5-0 Champions League demolition of Panathinaikos in midweek, on Sunday take on Getafe who like Osasuna are another of the league's more modest sides to have made an impressive start to the season.

The Catalans have notched 15 goals and conceded none in their last four games and are in seemingly unstoppable form, but Getafe have not lost at home in almost a year and are anxious to win after successive defeats at Sociedad and Deportivo Coruna.

'We've been a little stung by our last two losses,' says striker Riki. 'But we'll be taking Barca on without any worries and we are certain to make life difficult for them. I think we'll win 2-1.'

A depleted Real Madrid got back to winning ways after consecutive defeats to Valencia and Deportivo with a scrappy 2-0 victory at Real Betis last weekend and followed that by reaching the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win at Rosenborg.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo's side are down to the bare bones again as they face draw specialists Zaragoza at the Bernabeu on Sunday with Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Julio Baptista, Thomas Gravesen and Ivan Helguera all injured and Pablo Garcia suspended.

Much of the home side's hopes of breaking the deadlock will rest on the shoulders of Brazilian forward Robinho who is finally beginning to settle at his new club.

'I'm playing more, I'm gaining in confidence and physically I'm feeling good,' the former Santos player said on Thursday. 'I hope I will keep on improving and score lots of goals for Real.'

In two other intriguing fixtures this weekend a rejuvenated Villarreal host regional rivals Valencia and the bottom two sides Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao meet at Montjuic.

Bilbao will hope that inviting Javier Clemente to take charge for the third time in his career will pay off against the Catalans who gave a less than enthusiastic vote of confidence to their coach Miguel Angel Lotina at the start of the week.