Real Madrid hosts Celta Vigo in Copa del Rey

HAROLD HECKLE Associated Press Published:

MADRID (AP) -- Real Madrid has an opportunity to quiet recent fan criticism when it takes on Celta Vigo in a must-win Copa del Rey match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Madrid must recover from a 2-1 loss in the first leg of the round of 16 to progress Wednesday in the cup competition. In the league, Madrid trails Barcelona by 16 points after 18 matches, a gap that Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has said is "almost impossible" to bridge.

Barcelona is under less pressure, playing at the Camp Nou on Thursday following a 2-0 win over second-tier club Cordoba in the first leg. Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova will be in charge for his second post-surgery match after his team beat crosstown rival Espanyol 4-0 in the Spanish league.

Because Mourinho started with second-choice goalkeeper Adan Garrido in Sunday's 4-3 league win over Real Sociedad, Iker Casillas will likely play against Celta.

Garrido, however, only lasted six minutes against Sociedad before being sent off after charging out and tripping the advancing Carlos Vela in the penalty area.

"It's too bad when you're sent off after five minutes, but these things happen," Garrido said. "It could have worked out as a perfect match, but it turned out as it did and I need to address it responsibly. It was an unfortunate move and I now need to look forward."

Mourinho was quick to jump to his backup goalkeeper's defense.

"My opinion is that people have shown Adan a total lack of respect," Mourinho said.

Vilanova returned to the touchline Sunday for his first game in charge since undergoing throat surgery 17 days earlier to remove a second tumor from a saliva gland.

Alongside assistant Jordi Roura, Vilanova was seen issuing instruction to his team as it overran Espanyol, with all four goals coming in a half hour of total dominance.

Vilanova said he was aware his squad was happy and relieved to see him back.

"This team has already had too many scares, and it's not easy for the players to react as they did," he said. "I think the times all these guys are living through will stand them in good stead in the future because everyone should be aware that what has happened to me can happen to anyone."

On Thursday, Atletico Madrid travels to crosstown rival Getafe, where coach Diego Simeone will be able to count on the firepower of striker Radamel Falcao. Falcao was suspended for the 1-1 weekend league draw against Mallorca.

Simeone said he is happy with the progress being made by forward Diego Costa. The Brazilian had three shots on goal at Mallorca and, along with midfielder Raul Garcia, was the player who most tried to break through the opposing defense.

"Costa is a very important player for the squad," Simeone said. "In the first half their goalkeeper saved with the tip of his foot an incredible ball from him, and the assist leading to our goal was also his."

Atletico is defending a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

Valencia hosts Osasuna defending a 2-0 lead.

Also, it's: Malaga vs. Eibar; Real Betis vs. Las Palmas; Real Zaragoza vs. Levante; and Sevilla vs. Mallorca.