Sociedad expecting Real Madrid challenge

Real Sociedad midfielder David Zurutuza is expecting Real Madrid to present more of an attacking threat on Saturday than Manchester United managed in midweek.

Bale in Real Madrid

Sociedad held David Moyes' side to a goalless draw in a largely lifeless Champions League encounter at the Anoeta, with the main talking point afterwards the contentious award of a United penalty which was missed by Robin van Persie.

Having blunted United's attacking threat successfully on Tuesday night, Zurutuza will be hoping for more of the same at the Bernabeu, but he accepts facing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema throws up a whole new challenge.

"Manchester have a more physical approach. Madrid have more talent, more punch. You can feel as though you're playing well and you lose 3-0 on three moves," he told the AS newspaper.

Zurutuza dismissed talk of Madrid being in crisis after a relatively slow start to the season which has seen them slip six points behind arch rivals Barcelona after 12 games.

He added: "They are third in the table, have lost very few games and have big players who are rediscovering their best form. Madrid's quality is indisputable."

Despite making their best ever start to a Primera Division season, Barca have attracted criticism for their performances of late.

But midfielder-cum-defender Javier Mascherano feels the condemnation is misguided.

He told the club's official website following Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League win over AC Milan: "We are first in the league, we have qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League, we won the Spanish Supercopa ... we are doing something right."

Gerardo Martino's side make the trip south to face Real Betis on Sunday night, by which time they may have lost the leadership to Atletico Madrid who visit Villarreal earlier in the evening.

Atletico's blistering start to the season shows no sign of easing and Diego Simeone's men impressed once more in a 4-0 Champions League thrashing of Austria Vienna on Wednesday night.

Also on Sunday, Valencia host Real Valladolid with under-fire Los Che boss Miroslav Djukic receiving a vote of confidence this week from president Amadeo Salvo.

Asked whether the Serbian would remain in charge until the end of the season, Salvo said: "Yes, of course. And he wants to continue.

"We are going to have patience and we believe that Djukic is perfect for the project."

Espanyol host Sevilla on Sunday morning while, a day earlier, bottom side Rayo Vallecano go to Celta Vigo, Athletic Bilbao meet Levante and Elche visit Getafe.

The weekend programme starts on Friday with two games, one of which is an intriguing relegation tussle between second-bottom Almeria and 17th-placed Osasuna.

The other is a derby clash between Granada and Malaga.



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