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La Liga Weekend Preview

Atletico Madrid begin life under new coach Abel Resino this weekend but centre-back Tomas Ujfalusi insists it is the players who must take responsibility for the team’s poor form.  Atletico travel south to Recreativo Huelva still looking for their first win in 2009, and their record of five defeats and two draws in seven games brought about the end of coach Javier Aguirre, who left the club by mutual consent on Tuesday.

The new man is former Atletico goalkeeper Resino, who had been in charge of Segunda Division high-flyers Castellon, but Ujfalusi feels it is the team who need to stand up and be counted.

“The blame is ours. The players who go out on the pitch every week are the ones who haven’t won matches,” he said. “(Changing coaches) is always something that’s disappointing. Unfortunately though it’s something that happens. When a team plays badly and doesn’t win games, and more so if it’s a team like Atletico who are fighting for a Champions League place, there’s always talk of changing the coach. You can’t change 20 players. I don’t like it, but we’re the players and we must accept the board’s decision and concentrate only on playing well.”

Atletico’s poor run this year has seen them slip down to seventh in the standings, five points behind Valencia, who occupy the final Champions League place and travel to third-bottom Osasuna this weekend.

They are also 23 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona, who are showing no signs of weakening their grip at the top of the table. Pep Guardiola’s side host Sporting Gijon – a side they beat 6-1 earlier this season – looking for their 19th win in 20 league games and boasting a 12-point advantage over second-placed Real Madrid. The one headache for Guardiola on Sunday could be his defence, with Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Gabriel Milito, Gerard Pique and Rafael Marquez all set to be missing through either injury or suspension.

Madrid coach Juande Ramos might also have a selection problem for his side’s tricky home match with Racing Santander as in-form winger Arjen Robben is suffering from illness. If the Dutchman fails to make the match then it could increase the chances of new signing Julien Faubert making his debut after recently joining the club on loan from West Ham.

Arguably the biggest match in Spain this weekend takes place at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan though, where third-placed Sevilla play host to struggling local rivals Real Betis. Sevilla have lost their last two league matches but got back to winning ways last night with a battling 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final. Betis could do with a pick-me-up like that having won just one of their last nine league games going back to November, and this week’s arrival of 9million euro striker Ricardo Oliveira from Real Zaragoza could provide just that. The Brazil international, who returns for a second spell at Betis, has tried to keep expectations at a reasonable level though, saying: “I will try and fight to score goals. I’m not the saviour, I’ve come to fight and assume my responsibility.”

Elsewhere this weekend, bottom club Real Mallorca host sixth-placed Deportivo La Coruna, second-bottom Espanyol go to Getafe, Malaga are at home to neighbours Almeria, Villarreal meet Numancia and Athletic Bilbao go to Real Valladolid.

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