PREVIEW-Soccer-Real on edge for Madrid derby at Atletico (Reuters)
* Barcelona host Getafe on Tuesday
* Real visit Atletico on Wednesday for Madrid derby
By Mark Elkington
MADRID, April 9 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach DiegoSimeone is just the man to exploit Real Madrid’s ragged nervesas his side try to end a 13-year winless run against their moreillustrious neighbours on Wednesday (2100GMT).
Simeone, often described as playing with a knife between histeeth when he captained Argentina, has brought some of hisuncompromising tenacity to Atletico who have lost only once athome since he arrived in the winter break.
La Liga leaders Real, on the other hand, will have theirnerves on edge after seeing a 10-point lead over Barcelona cutto four in the space of three weeks. Their latest slipup was a0-0 draw at home to Valencia on Sunday.
“Perhaps we were a little anxious and rushed when making thefinal pass,” said Real director Emilio Butragueno.
“Wednesday’s game will be vital for us to get some breathingspace,” added the former Real forward known in his playing daysas the Vulture. “There is no let up, we have a terrible month infront of us.”
While Real have drawn three of their last five leaguematches, a Lionel Messi-inspired Barca have won nine on the trotand host Getafe on Tuesday (2000).
Real are chasing their first league title since 2008 andhave 79 points after 31 games. Barca have 75 and are seekingtheir fourth straight La Liga crown.
Jose Mourinho’s side, on paper, have a tougher run-in, withfurther trips to play Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona on April 21.
“After drawing against Valencia, we have to win at theCalderon,” Real defender Raul Albiol told reporters.
If Real and Barca finish the season level on points thehead-to-head results between them would decide the title, ashappened when Fabio Capello’s Real team won in 2007.
Maintaining a four-point gap helps keep the pressure off the‘clasico’ in Barcelona in two weeks time, as Pep Guardiola’sside hold a 3-1 advantage from their victory at the Bernabeu inDecember.
Europa League semi-finalists Atletico, who are seventh,slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Levante on Sunday and are running outof options in their push for a top four finish.
“We have to respect Real because they are the leaders, theyare more than 30 points ahead of us, and are one of the bestteams in their history,” Atletico’s Brazilian defender FelipeLuis said.
“We are all very keen to end this run of many years withoutbeating Madrid.”
(Editing by Brian Homewood)