Mourinho starting to feel at home in Madrid

After a difficult start to his tenure marked by a dearth of goals, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is starting to feel at home in the Spanish capital in an ominous sign for the club`s La Liga title rivals.

In their last two matches, Real knocked six past Deportivo Coruna and climbed to the top of the standings with a 4-1 drubbing of Malaga last weekend. They host struggling Racing Santander on Saturday with former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in splendid form.

With seven matches played, they lead Barcelona by a point and have made an impressive start to their bid to end their arch rivals` two-year run as Spanish champions and justify the hundreds of millions of euros spent on players and staff.

Tuesday`s Champions League victory over AC Milan also put them within reach of a place in the last 16 of Europe`s elite club competition and Mourinho said his four-year plan to bring silverware to Madrid was beginning to bear fruit.

"My empathy here with the players and the club is growing," Portuguese Mourinho, who joined Real after leading Inter Milan to an unprecedented treble of Champions League and Italian league and Cup last season, said this week.

"We are all on the same wavelength," the former Chelsea and Porto coach added. "The fans have a positive feeling and we are building something important."

Mourinho`s compatriot Ronaldo, the world`s most expensive player, endured whistling from some of Real`s demanding fans earlier in the season but has silenced the doubters with four goals in his last two La Liga outings.

At the other end of the pitch, Portugal team mates Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho have been rock solid in central defence in front of Spain`s World Cup-winning captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and Real have conceded just three goals to 16 scored.

Barca have let in twice as many and are level on 16 points with Valencia and Villarreal ahead of their trip to Real Zaragoza earlier on Saturday (1600).

Valencia, knocked off the top after losing 2-1 at Barca last weekend, host Real Mallorca the same day (2000) and Villarreal are at home to fifth-placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday (1900).

Barca captain Carles Puyol is not worried about the team`s uncharacteristic inability to take their chances and is convinced the goals will come.

Spain striker David Villa, signed from Valencia in the close season but yet to hit his stride in the Catalan capital, would soon find his range, he added.

"We have players of exceptional quality who are proven goalscorers," Puyol said after Wednesday`s 2-0 Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen at the Nou Camp.

"But sometimes the ball goes in and other times it doesn`t," he added.

"Villa is working very well and is full of desire. When his poor run changes he`ll score a lot of goals."

Bureau Report