Sevilla look to cash in on Barcelona absence
MADRID, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Barcelona's trip to the Club World Cup in Japan will hand Sevilla the chance to go top of the Primera Liga on Sunday when they make the short hop across Andalucia to meet Recreativo Huelva.
Confidence is sky high at the UEFA Cup holders after their 2-1 victory over Real Madrid last week, a win that moved them up to second place, two points behind the defending champions.
'There are no limits to our ambitions, we have a team that is capable of beating Real Madrid without playing at its best and of beating a side like Valencia 3-0,' club president Jose Maria del Nido told sports daily AS earlier this week.
The victory over Real made it seven home wins out of seven for Juande Ramos's side, who have played some irresistible football this season.
Striker Frederic Kanoute scored against Real to take his tally for the season to 11 and join Ronaldinho and Diego Milito at the top of the goal charts.
Together with wing back Daniel Alves and midfielder Christian Poulsen, the former Tottenham Hotspur striker has been one of Sevilla's stand-out players this season, but he is doubtful for Sunday's match with a rib injury.
Sevilla would do well not to underestimate Recreativo who have been the surprise package of the first half of the Spanish season and are seventh place in the table.
The longest-established club in Spain, Recre won the second division title last season and have impressed many with their ambitious brand of attractive, attack-minded football on their return to the top flight.
With former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle, ex-Racing Santander forward Javi Guerrero and Nigerian super-sub Ikwechukwu Uche up front, they could cause the Sevilla back four some problems.
Real Madrid, who are two points behind Sevilla in third, have a tricky away match against a rejuvenated Espanyol.
The Catalans, who defeated Sevilla 2-1 two weeks ago, are on a 10-match unbeaten run and have got the better of Real in their last two meetings at Montjuic.
Real will be without David Beckham who is suspended after picking up a fifth booking last weekend, meaning that Mahamadou Diarra will renew his partnership with Emerson in the centre of midfield.
Real coach Fabio Capello defended his use of two holding midfielders and the side's failure to shine in attack.
'It is fashionable to say we are boring, but our main priority is to win and to do that you have to be a team,' said the Italian. 'We are now a side that battles hard but has also got some quality players.'
The weekend's other stand-out match is Valencia's visit to Real Zaragoza.
Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar will line up for Zaragoza against his old team who won their first match in seven outings with their 4-0 victory over Deportivo Coruna last week.
Barcelona's match at Real Betis has been rescheduled for January 24.