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4. SPAIN: Discord at the top of La Liga
February 16th, 2007 1:32AM

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Barcelona and Real Madrid aren't the only Spanish clubs with player discord.

One of the closest La Liga races in years has been overshadowed by problems at Barcelona (where Cameroonian star Samuel Eto'o criticized Coach Frank Rijkaard and teammate Ronaldinho) and Real Madrid (where David Beckham spent a month off the first team).

Fourth-place Valencia hopes the ill will that came to the surface at Barcelona will work to its benefit when the La Liga leader travels to fourth-place Valencia on Sunday (TV: WorldSport HD, live, 1 pm).

"Of course we hope it affects them, and a lot, too," said Valencia defender Roberto Ayala. "I hope it affects them so much that we can score three goals against them on Sunday."

Ayala has been in the news recently as his decision to leave Valencia for Villarreal next season has not gone over well with Valencia fans. Brazilian midfielder Edu also criticized the club, blaming its dietary program for his knee trouble.

Second-place Sevilla is another team with discontent. It has won only one of its last six league games, and Uruguayan striker Ernesto Chevanton has been publicly unhappy with his lack of opportunities. Sevilla, which beat Steaua Bucharest, 2-0, in Bucharest Thursday in the UEFA Cup, hosts Atletico Madrid, which is tied with Valencia for fourth place, on Sunday (TV: GolTV, live, 3 pm)

Third-place Real Madrid hosts Real Betis in a potentially difficult test on Saturday (TV: GolTV, live, 2 pm).


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