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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 21, 2010

Focus on forwards for faltering Real

Real Madrid's faltering start to 2010 has put the spotlight on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema ahead of the visit of lowly Malaga in La Liga on Sunday (2000 GMT).

Real fired in 16 goals in the four matches leading into the winter break, but they have run into a barren patch since their return to action.

A 0-0 draw away to Osasuna, a 2-0 home win over Real Mallorca and last weekend's 1-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao have seen second-placed Real slip five points behind unbeaten leaders Barcelona.

"We create a lot of chances but we just lack a little luck," Real defender Sergio Ramos told sports daily Marca. "This should prompt us to be more assured in front of goal and to work hard to improve."

Top scorer Gonzalo Higuain is injured, Ronaldo has not scored since last month, while the contributions of Kaka and Benzema have been under the microscope in the media.

However, a money-spinning midweek friendly in Albania on Wednesday may have helped boost Kaka and Benzema's confidence after both scored in the 2-1 win over Gramozi Erseke.

Real will be defending their perfect home record against a Malaga side lying one point above the relegation places. But their visitors, who have yet to win away, have not lost a game in the league since November 1.

This weekend's matches usher in the mid-point of the season with Barca already assured of the honorary title of 'winter champions'.

The Catalans are able to prepare for the trip to face Real Valladolid on Saturday (1900) in a more relaxed atmosphere after coach Pep Guardiola said he would like to extend his contract beyond the end of the season. Guardiola will have midfielder Seydou Keita back after Mali were knocked out of African Nations Cup.

At the foot of the table, new Xerez coach Nestor Gorosito takes charge for his first match at home to Osasuna on Sunday (1600), with the club in a desperate situation.

The top-flight debutants are in administration, are six points adrift at the bottom, and have only managed to score seven times in 18 matches.

"I have high hopes that we can turn the situation round," the Argentine Gorosito said at his presentation. "I intend to play with the team a little higher up the pitch than they have been doing, because it is difficult to win without thinking about your opponents goal."

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