Real wary of Hercules slip up

MADRID - Real Madrid must avoid slipping on a banana skin on Saturday when struggling Hercules visit the Bernabeu in La Liga.

Jose Mourinho's team host Olympique Lyon on Wednesday aiming to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years after a 1-1 first-leg draw and then follow up with a domestic trip to local rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real have a 100 percent home record this season but captain Iker Casillas (pictured) warned against under-estimating relegation-threatened Hercules.

La Liga's worst travellers with three goals scored, six points and one road victory have achieved something no one else has this season, winning 2-0 in Barcelona in September.

"Our most important game is the one against Hercules because we cannot afford to drop any more points in the league," Real's Spanish international goalkeeper Casillas told reporters.

"Although they may be considered inferior they are fighting for different objectives and beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp. We need to remember that."

With 11 games left, Real are seven points behind leaders Barca who visit Sevilla on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to recover from a muscle strain but Mourinho may be tempted to rest his leading scorer ahead of next week's games.

The Portugal forward missed his first league match of the season last weekend and in his absence Real played some of their best football of the campaign to win 3-1 at Racing Santander, with Mesut Ozil in particular catching the eye.


"As you can see we have a good squad," said Germany midfielder Ozil while denying the team played better because Ronaldo was out.

"He's a world-class footballer who has won us many games and I hope he recovers soon."

Hercules, in 18th spot, are without injured leading scorer David Trezeguet and playmaker Tote while Nelson Valdez is a doubt.

Barca turn their attentions back to domestic matters after qualifying for the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Arsenal.

They travel to eighth-placed Sevilla who have lost joint top scorer Luis Fabiano to injury.

Elsewhere, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has been feeling the heat from fans ahead of the trip to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

One win in 10 games has left rock bottom Malaga four points from safety but vice-president Abdullah Ghubn gave the Chilean his backing this week.

"I have read some reports we might change coaches after the trip to San Sebastian," he told reporters.

"Whatever happens we are not going to change. He is the right coach for this team."