Madrid: Jose Mourinho must pick himself and his Real Madrid team up from Monday’s 5-0 humiliation by Barcelona at Camp Nou as his side defend their 100 percent home record against Valencia on Saturday.
Real went into the Clasico unbeaten and a point ahead of Barcelona, however, the champions gave a football lesson to their bitter rivals and Mourinho’s first defeat in charge of Real is the biggest of his glittering career.
“It wasn’t the biggest humiliation of my career but yes, it was the biggest defeat of my career because I have never lost 5-0,” said Mourinho.
“However, the league isn’t over and it will be a title race right until the end of the season and will be up there.”
Mourinho has been uncharacteristically quiet in the press this week following the painful defeat and has to prepare for another tough match at home to fifth-placed Valencia.
Madrid had the best defence in the league prior to the Barcelona mauling and Mourinho will be desperate to tighten up again at the back although the Portuguese is hindered by the loss of defenders Sergio Ramos and Ricardo Carvalho through suspension.
Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain has slipped a disc in his back and may be out for up to two months with surgery and top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Valencia are eight points behind Real and goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez, who started the 2002 Champions League final for Real ahead of Iker Casillas, believes his old team are a wounded animal ready to bite back.
“Real know how to pick themselves up from painful defeat and I am sure they will be really psyched up for Saturday’s match,” said Cesar.
Barcelona have made their best league start in their history with 34 points from a possible 39 and the Real rout - which made it 13 goals in their last two league matches - moved them two points clear of their rivals at the top of the Spanish first division.
“Losing a match where they (Real) had such high expectations is a big setback for them and a moral boost for us,” said Barcelona midfielder Xavi. “The 6-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu was perfect but this tops that.”
It was a fifth consecutive Clasico win for Barcelona and their coach Pep Guardiola who maintained his 100 percent record in the fixture and now wants his side to push on and continue their flawless away record with a win over Osasuna on Saturday.
Barcelona dropped points in Pamplona last season with a 1-1 draw at Osasuna and Guardiola will not want a slip-up against mid-table opponents having put themselves in the title box seat with their emphatic Clasico win.
“We have to be on top of Leo (Messi), Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta and not let them breathe,” said Osasuna striker Walter Pandiani. “Madrid let them breathe and allowed them to play.”
In other matches, third-placed Villarreal, five points behind Real, host an out-of-sorts Sevilla at El Madrigal on Sunday.
Villarreal are unbeaten at home with five wins and a draw while Sevilla languish down in eighth after back to back league losses.
Espanyol occupy fourth, two points behind Villarreal, after a sensational start to the season and aim to extend their perfect home run against struggling Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
Espanyol have taken a maximum 18 points at their Cornella-El Prat stadium and come up against a Sporting side that haven’t won in the league since mid-October and lie fourth from bottom.
The bottom two teams in the table, Real Zaragoza and Almeria, come face to face on Sunday in a vital relegation six-pointer.
Both sides have new managers waiting for their first wins in charge with Zaragoza boss Javier Aguirre taking one point from six while Almeria coach Jose Luis Oltra tasted a 2-1 defeat at Valencia on his debut last week.
Zaragoza prop up the standings with eight points with low-scoring Almeria, who have the worst attack in the league, a point ahead.