Fri, Dec 03, 2010 - Page 19 News List

LFP: Bedraggled Real Madrid prepare for tricky Valencia test

Reuters and AFP, MADRID

Real Madrid must put behind them a humbling defeat by Barcelona and a dismal week all round when they face fifth-placed Valencia in La Liga tomorrow.

Monday’s mauling in the Clasico was Real’s first loss of the season and the margin and manner of it surprised everyone as they slipped off the top of La Liga down to second, two behind points their arch-rivals Barcelona.

Real coach Jose Mourinho was given a one-match Champions League ban and four players were fined by UEFA on Tuesday over allegations that Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso deliberately provoked red cards in a match against Ajax last month.

To top it all, Gonzalo Higuain was told on Wednesday he would probably need surgery for a slipped disc, which could keep the Argentine striker out of action for up to two months.

“Our pride in the shirt and the club’s badge has been hurt, especially as we know many Madrid fans are still suffering from the [Barca] defeat,” Real and Spain defender Ramos told reporters. “We need to pick ourselves up and stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Not to do so would be a mistake. On Saturday we have an important game against rivals who are having a good season.”

Ramos also apologized for his sending-off at Camp Nou, when he lashed out in frustration to trip Lionel Messi near the end of the game, and tussled with Carles Puyol and Xavi as he walked off the pitch.

Mourinho will be without Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho, who is also suspended, which will probably force him to bring in Spain defenders Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa.

He will be without Higuain and top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo is doubtful as he recovers from a bruised right ankle.

The Spanish club’s doctor Carlos Diez said on Wednesday that Higuain will likely need surgery for a herniated disk.

“After a period of five to six weeks, during which no improvement was seen, we all agree that he should have surgery. We must now decide what specialist to see for a second opinion, and if we all agree, proceed with the operation,” he told reporters. “Should this be the case, Higuain will be unable to participate in sports for approximately two months.”.

The 22-year-old has not played since Real’s 5-1 thrashing of Athletic Bilbao on Nov. 20. He was replaced by French striker Karim Benzema during Real’s 5-0 away loss to Barcelona on Monday.

Higuain has scored seven times in La Liga and twice in the Champions League this season.

Sports daily Marca reported on Tuesday that Real could seek to recruit a new striker in the winter transfer period to make up for Higuain’s absence if he needed to undergo surgery.

It said Werder Bremen’s Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida was a strong candidate.

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