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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep, 13, 2007

Almeria to test Real's concentration

MADRID, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Champions Madrid have made a perfect start to their Primera Liga campaign and the leaders receive promoted Almeria at the Bernabeu on Saturday riding high on a wave of optimism.

However, defender Pepe has warned they must apply the same levels of focus as they did to win their opening two games against tougher rivals Atletico Madrid (2-1) and Villarreal (5-0), to maintain their momentum.

'If we don't show the same determination and concentration they we had against Villarreal we could lose. We are playing at home and cannot afford to relax for a single moment,' he said.

Almeria, who finished as runners-up in the second division last year, are experiencing only their third season in the top flight but have started brightly.

They won their opener 3-0 away to Deportivo Coruna and were unlucky to lose 2-1 at home to Valencia last time out.

They are the type of opponents Real struggled against in the Bernabeu last year, when both promoted Recreativo Huelva and Levante claimed surprise wins.

For Saturday, however, Almeria are shorn of leading striker Alvaro Negredo, who is prevented from playing due to a clause in his contract.

Real sold the youth team striker to Almeria in the close season, retaining an option to buy him back, and stipulated that he could not represent the south-coast club in the Bernabeu.

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder is a doubt for Bernd Schuster's side after he picked up an ankle injury on international duty, while winger Arjen Robben is close to making his debut but is unlikely to start.

As the only club with a 100 percent record, Real have a two-point advantage after just two games, which means arch-rivals Barcelona are already playing catch up.

They were unimpressive in drawing away to Racing Santander and beating Athletic Bilbao at home, and face a physical battle away to Osasuna on Sunday.

Barca president Joan Laporta has once again criticised the team for letting the title slip away from them last season, prompting defender Silvinho to say: 'We are going to be under a lot of pressure all season.'

Misfiring Valencia are at home to promoted Valladolid on Saturday, and Atletico Madrid visit another promoted side Real Murcia on Sunday, looking for their first win.

Sevilla receive regional rivals Recreativo for what will be an emotional game in the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday.

The last time they played at home, against Getafe on the opening day of the season, midfielder Antonio Puerta collapsed and later died in hospital.

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