Real Madrid take aim at Barcelona's five-point lead over them in La Liga
Super Cup win provides impetus for Madrid giants after shaky start to their league campaign
Having claimed the season's first piece of silverware with victory over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid return to domestic action needing to close a five-point deficit to the Catalan giants in La Liga.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho uncharacteristically tore into his team's performance in their 2-1 derby defeat to Getafe last weekend, calling it "unacceptable".
He got the reaction he was looking for in the Super Cup, though, with a sparkling first-half display on Wednesday at the Bernabeu paving the way for a 2-1 win over 10-man Barca that gave Madrid the trophy on away goals.
It was the only prize that Mourinho lacked in Spain after winning the King's Cup in his first year and the league title last season, halting Barca's hegemony under Pep Guardiola at three consecutive league titles.
"The trophy will give us confidence. We should enjoy the moment but also realise that we must now move forward and know that we cannot afford to make any more mistakes," Real midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo said ahead of tomorrow's game at home to Granada.
"We know we have to improve as a group as well as individually," the Portugal star said. "We started the game against Barca well, scoring two goals, but then … eased off as we became tired."
The Super Cup defeat was a blow for new Barca coach Tito Vilanova as he seeks to emulate the successes of his predecessor. He has so far failed to tighten up the defence, which was the weak point of the team last season, and centre-backs Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano were chasing shadows for much of the first 45 minutes against Madrid.
Still, Vilanova praised the way his side responded as they started the second-half already 2-1 and one man down, after Adriano was sent off on 27 minutes.
"I am proud that with 10 men in the second half, we managed to create five scoring chances," he said. "This isn't a psychological blow. We would have preferred to win, but it isn't make or break for the season and we now return to the league."
Barca take on Valencia tomorrow looking to maintain their 100 per cent record, shared by Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano.
Valladolid are yet to concede a goal in an impressive return to the top flight and tomorrow face an Athletic Bilbao side in disarray after the departure of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich, and with Fernando Llorente expected to follow him out of the door. Bilbao's policy of fielding only Basques means their ability to hold onto players is key, but their fine displays last season have put them in the shop window.
Vallecano play Sevilla, who were happy to come away with a point from the Andalusian derby with Granada after playing the whole second half with 10 men following the dismissal of goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Atletico Madrid will on Monday look to continue their strong start to the season, which included a hat-trick by striker Radamel Falcao in a 4-0 victory over Bilbao, when they play Real Betis.
Malaga learned on Thursday that they will face AC Milan, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Anderlecht in the group stage of their debut Champions League campaign, and they take on Real Zaragoza in La Liga today.