Casillas will use the criticism as an incentive, says Jose Angel Iribar

Iker Casillas - Real Madrid

Iker Casillas – Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas should use the criticism being levied towards him as an incentive, according to Jose Angel Iribar, who admits that as a goalkeeper you are under more pressure than other players.

The legendary Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper made 466 Liga appearances for the Basque-side, a record expected to be equalled by Los Blancos‘ long-standing No.1 in Madrid’s match against Mallorca.

Casillas would become the joint third goalkeeper with the most appearences in La Liga, with Francisco Buyo [542] and Andoni Zubizarreta [622] still ahead of him.

“Having played in 600-odd games, it is inevitable for Casillas to come under pressure”, Iribar told AS. “But it will serve as motivation, and as an incentive to improve in the future.

“Against Borussia Dortmund, Casillas was one of the outstanding performers showing that the criticism will help him rediscover his form. Naturally, he is human so will make mistakes which will be more costly because he plays in goal.”

Iribar added that he wished he could see a goalkeeper win the Ballon d’Or, but with the nominations being announced on October 29, the former-Bilbao player admits it will be difficult for Casillas to win the prestigious award.

“It would be nice [for Casillas to win the Ballon d’Or], and as a goalkeeper I wish it were so. It’s complicated, though, because there is a lot of competition.

“Those who judge the award focus on the players that score the goals. Like [Lionel] Messi, like [Cristiano] Ronaldo.”

Manchester United's De Gea rules out Read Madrid move

Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea has been touted as a possible long-term replacement for the current Real Madrid and Spain No.1 Iker Casillas, but has made it clear he is ready to stay in England and fight to become Sir Alex Ferguson’s first choice shot-stopper.

“I am happy at United and not thinking about a return to Spain”, De Gea told The Sun.

“I’ve accepted the challenge to learn and improve as a professional, and fighting for my place gives me a bigger incentive to play well.”

He faces tough competition from Anders Lindegaard, with both keepers yet to cement a regular starting place in the United first XI under Sir Alex’s rotation policy this season.
De Gea is set to start Sunday’s crucial Premier League game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as Lindegaard is ruled out with a thumb injury. Victory for the Red Devils would see them reclaim second position in the Premier League table behind the Blues.

Mallorca – Real Madrid Betting Preview: Why a low scoring encounter looks likely

Real Madrid visit the island of Mallorca on Sunday evening hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.

While los Blancos have been in decent domestic form in recent weeks, recording three wins and a Clasico draw in their last four matches, recent trips to the city of Palma have proved relatively fruitless with the Spanish champions winning only three of their last six matches.

Sportingbet price a victory for Jose Mourinho’s men at a prohibatively short 4/11 (1.36), while a home win can be backed at 7/1 (8.00) and the draw is offered at 37/10 (4.70).

Traditionally then, this is regarded as a tough fixture for Real Madrid, and with los Merengues suffering injuries to some key players in recent weeks, the price of 8/5 (2.60) for under 2.5 goals looks extremely tempting and offers a significant return to boot.

Not only has this bet paid out in two of Madrid’s last three away matches in the league, it has also proved to be the correct selection in five of Mallorca’s last seven games.

To this end a small value bet on 0-1 goals to be scored in the game looks to hold some serious value at 9/2 (5.50) with this bet paying out in two of the last four meetings between the sides.

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.

No let-up for Madrid as 'best-ever' Barcelona & 300-goal Messi march on

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It must be demoralising for Real Madrid. Crowned champions just a few months ago, Jose Mourinho’s men find themselves 11 points behind going into Sunday’s match at Mallorca – and they will need to win it simply to stay in touch with their fiercest rivals in La Liga.

Barcelona were in action in the Spanish capital on Saturday and, following a somewhat slow start in Vallecas, soon took complete control as they marched to an eighth win out of nine in La Liga this term to equal their best-ever beginning to a season. Tito Vilanova’s team are now level with Louis van Gaal’s 1997-98 side (which featured a certain Pep Guardiola) on eight wins and a draw. Avoid defeat against Celta Vigo next weekend and they will claim the record outright.
Guardiola’s men never managed such a spectacular start, but they did thrash Rayo Vallecano 7-0 in the capital last season, in a game which came only two days after he had held back tears to announce his departure in an emotional press conference in Barcelona.

On that day, the Catalan club took the opportunity to name Vilanova as his replacement and Tito’s team fared well in this fixture, even though Rayo’s early intensity made life difficult for the visitors. David Villa opened the scoring after 19 minutes to make it four league goals for him this season and net his first as a starter this term. That was good news for Barca, as was Cesc Fabregas’ assist.

The Catalan midfielder has discovered his very best form following a difficult first year at the club and ended the night with a fine goal as he volleyed home from Pedro’s cross, and another assist – this time for Lionel Messi.

And it was the Argentine along with Cesc, who stole the show as usual, smashing home a superb second for Barca shortly after the restart and adding the fifth with a trademark run and slotted shot right at the end. Those were his 300th and 301st goals at senior level, all at the age of just 25. As Guardiola often said: there really are very few words left to describe his talents.

Former Madrid midfielder Guti lamented earlier this week that the attacker does not ply his trade with the capital club. Inspired by their fabulous forward, Barca are way out in front in La Liga with 25 points now, although they can be caught by Atletico Madrid on Sunday if Diego Simeone’s side beat Osasuna at home.

Barca will surely endure a dip in form at some stage but Madrid must make sure they are within striking distance when that happens. And that means matching the Catalans blow for blow over the coming weeks. Against Mallorca on Sunday, only a win will do. But that is just the start because, at the moment, Messi and his men are comfortably ahead.

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Higuain will play at left-back, jokes Mourinho

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has sarcastically stated that their current injury crisis could see Gonzalo Higuain deployed as a makeshift left-back Mallorca on Sunday.

The 49-year-old has been forced to make do without key names in defence of late, with Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao both struggling with foot and muscle injuries respectively.

“Tomorrow the left-back will be Higuain. He is fast, strong, he crosses well with his left foot and he scores goals,” he snapped when pressed on how his team would line up at a press conference.

The Portuguese went on to warn his troops that underestimating their opponents could prove costly, and confirmed that Sergio Ramos was fit to take up his place at the back.

“It is going to be a complicated match. Mallorca is a good team, they have a great coach, and their stadium is a difficult place to visit. We have to try and come home with the three points, but it is clear that it is going to be a very difficult game.

“Ramos is alright and can play. He is a player who thinks of the team and has made himself available because he knows that the team has problems at the back. He and Pepe are very good, while [Ricardo] Carvalho is working well.”

The former Inter boss went on to appraise Luka Modric’s efforts to fit in following his big-money move from Tottenham in the summer, and claimed he was not worried about his strike force’s lack of form this season.

“I am happy with Modric’s development whether or not he plays tomorrow. We signed him for his versatility, and whenever he has played he has performed well. I trust him more and more.

“Higuain and [Karim] Benzema are two good players, and the fact that they have more or less goals does not bother me, because they will get to the end of the season with more or less the same numbers as last season.”