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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League about an hour ago
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By ESPN Staff
Dec 13, 2007

Demoralised Valencia seek reaction against Barca

MADRID, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Knocked out of Europe, without a goal in five matches and with morale on the floor, Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares reckons the visit of Barcelona in the Primera Liga on Saturday is just the remedy.

Ronald Koeman's side finished bottom of their Champions League group on Tuesday when they could only draw away to Chelsea, missing out on third place and a parachute into the UEFA Cup.

They return to face the music in front of their restless fans at the Mestalla, with one of the league's worst home records.

Although they are seventh in the standings, only four sides have accumulated fewer than their nine points from seven matches, and they are all near the foot of the table.

Their 3-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago made them the league's leakiest defence on home turf with 15 conceded, and their next visitors boast the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi up front.

'The negative connotations of facing a great team like Barca are counterbalanced by the greater motivation from yourselves and the fact that our fans will be more disposed to get behind us,' Canizares told sports daily AS.

Valencia will be without injured leading striker David Villa but can take comfort from Barca's poor form away from the Nou Camp.

Frank Rijkaard's second-placed side have only won once on their travels, at bottom club Levante back in September.

They will not want to lose any more ground on leaders Real Madrid, who have a four point advantage at the top of the table and a home tie against Osasuna on Sunday.

Real have a 100 percent record at the Bernabeu and visit the Nou Camp the following weekend, in the last round of matches before the mid-season break.

Osasuna, who are 14th, will be without former Real players Javi Garcia and Juanfran due to clauses in their contracts.

Third-placed Atletico Madrid have only lost once in eight and visit Recreativo Huelva on Sunday as they look to consolidate their position in the top four.

Two points back in fourth, Villarreal face a tough task to end their dip in form when they visit Getafe on Sunday.

Manuel Pellegrini's side have one point from their last three matches, all against sides in the bottom half of the table.