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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 22, 2008

Madrid turn attention to downcast Sporting

MADRID, September 22 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid will bid to heap more misery on Sporting Gijon when the sides meet at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening.

Newly-promoted Sporting were the victims of a 6-1 mauling at the hands of Barcelona on Sunday and Madrid will be confident of making it three wins in a row in the league to continue their recovery from an opening-day loss to Deportivo La Coruna.

Madrid's latest La Liga win came with a workmanlike 2-0 triumph at Racing Santander on Sunday, and forward Gonzalo Higuain has called on his team to build on the result which leaves the capital club sixth in the standings after three matches.

''I am happy we won and important and difficult match,'' Higuain told Madrid's official website. ''The three points are all that count and we managed to take them.

''We have important matches on the horizon, so we must continue doing what we are doing and winning.''

Meanwhile, Sporting coach Manuel Preciado has refused to press the panic button in the wake of the heavy home loss to Barca, but concedes better is needed if they are to avoid a repeat against Bernd Schuster's troops on Wednesday.

''It is too soon to evaluate what Sporting can really do this season because of the rivals we have had so far,'' he said. ''But we must definitely improve a lot in defence.

''We will have to improve in every department in order to get a good result in Madrid.''

Barcelona will hope to continue the good work started against Sporting when they entertain Real Betis at the Nou Camp.

The win in Gijon was the Catalan side's first in the league this season, and coach Pep Guardiola has called on his players to display similar levels of commitment from here on.

''What I will take from the game is the effort we put in right up to the end, and we all gave our all,'' Guardiola told Barca's official website. ''This is the way we must continue.''

Early league leaders Valencia are in action at Malaga on Thursday looking for their third league win in four after scraping a victory over Osasuna on Sunday courtesy of Juan Manuel Mata's solitary strike.

The form of Los Che is a far cry from their struggles under erstwhile coach Ronald Koeman last term, and defender Alexis attributes the turnaround to the work of new boss Unai Emery.

''Last year is gone,'' Alexis told the official Valencia website. ''We are playing very well this season.

''The coach gives confidence to all the players, treats all players equally, and when there is good cheer in the locker room it is noticeable on the pitch.''

Valencia will be overwhelming favourites to continue their solid start to the season against second-bottom Malaga, who have just one point from three games, and Emery is grateful that the fixture comes 24 hours after most of their rivals will have played.

''By Thursday we will know exactly what we have to do to stay top,'' he said.

Elsewhere on Thursday, surprise package Almeria will be hoping to consolidate their second place in the standings when they visit Real Valladolid, third-bottom Real Mallorca go in search of their first win of the season against Numancia, and Athletic Bilbao visit Huelva to face Recreativo.

Wednesday's remaining fixtures see Getafe play host to local rivals Atletico Madrid, Deportivo visit Osasuna, Sevilla entertain unbeaten Espanyol, and last season's runners-up Villarreal welcome Racing to El Madrigal.

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