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Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge

50-50 Challenge
By ESPN Staff

Rejuvenated Betis await groggy Real in Copa

MADRID, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Real Madrid stumble into their Copa del Rey last-16 first leg away to Real Betis on Thursday in a state of disarray after suffering their third defeat in four matches.

In the 2-0 setback away at Deportivo Coruna on Sunday, Real coach Fabio Capello appeared unsure as to his best side after signing three new players during the winter break.

The Cup offers Real their easiest route to silverware this year after three barren seasons.

However, they have managed only one goal in their last three outings and looked off the pace in the face of an aggressive, hard-running Depor, as they did in the previous defeat to Recreativo Huelva.

'We didn't play well and we have started the year as we finished the last one. We have to pick ourselves up,' said Real forward Jose Antonio Reyes.

'We were up for the game but after they scored the first goal it sunk us and we lacked a little character. The team was too static. We need to run more.'

Relegation-threatened Betis, who won the competition in 2005, will have taken note.

Given new life by wily coach Luis Fernandez, who led them to a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo in his first game in charge at the weekend, Betis will be out to mimic Depor's abrasive style in front of passionate fans who believe in their team again.

Of the other seven ties, three throw up interesting clashes between coaches and their former clubs.

Mexican coach Javier Aguirre spent four years at Osasuna and led them into the Champions League for the first time at the end of last season, but he left to join Atletico Madrid.

On Tuesday, the Navarrans visit Aguirre's Atletico and hope to profit from his new side's failure to impress in front of their own fans.

Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores visits former club Getafe on Wednesday in confident mood with key players returning from injury and the side back up to fifth in the league.

Primera Liga leaders Sevilla travel to the capital on Wednesday to face third division Rayo Vallecano whom their coach Juande Ramos led to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2001.

Three other lower-league survivors have the chance to upset the big boys.

Second division sides Alaves, Malaga and leaders Valladolid host Barcelona, Zaragoza and Villarreal respectively.

Deportivo, fired up after their victory over Real, visit struggling Real Mallorca.

The second legs are due to be played on Jan. 17.