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First all-Mexican coaching matchup in Spain

First all-Mexican coaching matchup in Spain

Javier Aguirre leads Atletico Madrid against Hugo Sanchez's Almeria in the first all-Mexican coaching matchup in the Spanish league, which hits the halfway point with this weekend's round of games.
Atletico is still looking for its first victory of 2009 after slumping to a fourth straight defeat on Wednesday, a 2-1 loss to Barcelona that dumped it out of the Copa del Rey.
Atletico, which lies fifth on 30 points, could be without striker Sergio Aguero who limped out of the match at the Camp Nou.
Sanchez's reign at Almeria has so far produced two victories and a draw in three league games, lifting the club to 14th with 20 points _ five above the drop zone.
Almeria bowed out of the domestic cup competition to second-last Mallorca, but the former Mexico coach and Real Madrid striker isn't worried about that affecting the team's performance come Sunday.
"The league and the cup are different tournaments. The two cup matches we played in one way and those in the league another," Sanchez said. "What we hope for is to win the next two league matches that we have at home. That's our objective."
Runaway leader Barcelona, which has 47 points, welcomes seventh-ranked Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday on the heels of its sixth straight win in all competitions. Barcelona is unbeaten in 17 straight league matches.
Coach Pep Guardiola is expected to return regulars Xavi Hernandez, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry to the lineup after resting them against Atletico, while offensive catalyst Lionel Messi is expected to play.
Real Madrid, which is tied with Sevilla in second on 35 points, will be looking for Arjen Robben to provide the offensive spark as the Spanish champion goes for a fourth straight win against last-place Osasuna on Sunday.
Several Madrid newspapers have been debating over whether Robben or Messi is the better player, although the Netherlands midfielder is in no doubt.
"I think Messi is the best player in the world," Robben said of the FIFA World Player of the Year runner-up. "I'm flattered, but I think he is in magnificent form and is out of this world."
Robben has been key to Madrid's recent revival, scoring twice while setting up most of the other scores during its current run.
"Everything is going well right now, but I know I can improve even more," said Robben, who has played in only seven of Madrid's 18 league games this season.
Sevilla has rediscovered its winning form with three wins over Deportivo inside a week and will face 15th-ranked Numancia on Saturday.
Sixth-ranked Villarreal hasn't won in the league since November _ a run of eight games _ and couldn't have asked for a better home date than Sunday's against 19th-place Mallorca, which has earned three of a possible 30 points since its last victory in October.
"I don't know why we're not getting the results, but the important thing is that the team has not lost its identity and it has deserved a lot more in the past few games," striker Guillermo Franco said.
Espanyol coach Mane Esnal earned his first victory Wednesday in the Copa del Rey, but the Barcelona club hasn't won in the league since Nov. 2 _ a stretch of nine matches. It plays 8th-placed Malaga, which is unbeaten in four.
In Sunday's other games, it's: Getafe vs. Racing Santander; Recreativo Huelva vs. Sporting Gijon; Valladolid vs. Real Betis; and Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia.


Updated : 2021-08-05 06:50 GMT+08:00