MADRID (AP) — Trailing Barcelona by 18 points in the Spanish league, Real Madrid will be looking for a boost against Valencia on Tuesday in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.
Madrid gave a lackluster display on Saturday, drawing 0-0 against Osasuna without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was suspended. Madrid only managed to get two shots on target, one an easily-stopped kick by Karim Benzema late in the match after midfielder Kaka had managed to get himself sent off for two rash challenges. Madrid's only other shot was ruled offside.
Barcelona, which has only dropped two points in 19 league matches, hosts Malaga. "Football is not work for me, it's my best therapy," said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, referring to his rapid recovery from throat surgery in December to remove a tumor for a second time.
The 44-year-old coach said striker David Villa, over whom there has been much media speculation about a possible move, would not be leaving the club in January. "Last year we missed him when he could not play in the second half of the season. We remembered his valuable contributions," Vilanova said. "Villa is not going."
Villa has also made a remarkable recovery from a serious tibia fracture in his leg. Atletico Madrid hosts Real Betis on Thursday and will be hoping to continue its scoring rate, with forward Radamel Falcao having become one of the most prolific strikers in world football.
Atletico is second in the league with 10 straight wins and a perfect first half of the season at home. Also Tuesday, Zaragoza hosts Sevilla.