Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster enters this weekend's league round trying to deal with internal criticism after the Spanish champion's Champions League defeat to Juventus.
|Things aren't going the way of the coach [GALLO/GETTY]
Madrid faces Malaga on Saturday on the heels of a 2-0 home loss to the Serie A club on Wednesday, which follows a disappointing league draw against Almeria.
Schuster said the club played "tactically phenomenally" against Juventus, but several Madrid players painted a different picture afterward.
"We lack quality," midfielder Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez said.
"We need to try and be a team on and off the pitch.
"We should have been more serious and more compelling at the back and, starting from now, we need to give more space to our game, opening up from the wings with
intention of getting to goal."
Guti's attack of team tactics follows those of defender Sergio Ramos, who was benched by Schuster for his criticism following a 2-1 loss at Juventus on October 21.
After Wednesday's match, Schuster said he was happy with the team's performance.
"We didn't know how to read the game," Guti added.
"We didn't know how to hold the ball and stay calm."
Madrid can't afford another slip-up against upstart Malaga if they want to keep up with league leader Barcelona, who are unbeaten in 13 games and have 22 points.
Villarreal, who play No. 11 Almeria, have 21, followed by Madrid and Valencia at 20.
Valencia plays at Getafe on Sunday.
Madrid's lack of pace on the flanks has been exposed since Robinho's exit to Manchester City.
Arjen Robben was expected to fill the gap but injuries continue to set the Netherlands international back.
He didn't play against Juventus after injuring his leg during the warm-up before the game.
While Madrid looks exposed, coach Pep Guardiola's Barcelona is running without a hitch, on and off the pitch, as their potent offence continues to flout nearly each opponent with ease.
They have averaged nearly four goals per match over the last six games, and hosts 14th-place Valladolid on Saturday.
|Coach Pep Guardiola has the respect of the players [GALLO/GETTY]
Guardiola has installed a strict disciplinary regime after former manager Frank Rijkaard seemed to lose control of the dressing room last season, with star players Ronaldinho and Deco making the headlines for off-field mishaps rather than on-field achievements.
Still, the Catalan club's disappointing 1-1 draw against Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday snapped an 11-match winning streak and saw Guardiola lose midfielder Andres Iniesta for six weeks to a leg injury.
"It's a shame because he is a fundamental football player, able to make a difference and to play in several different positions," Xavi Hernandez said of his Spain teammate.
"It's also a pain because it happened in a moment of great form and now we have some important games coming."
Atletico Madrid are looking to move forward following a contentious 1-1 draw against Liverpool.
Atletico returned from the European Cup match with just one point after a disputed Liverpool penalty deep into injury time.
Club president Enrique Cerezo has urged his players to get on with it and focus on Sunday's match against last-place Osasuna, who are looking for their first win under new manager Jose Antonio Camacho.
"Of course I still believe we were robbed by a nonexistent penalty ... but there is nothing we can do about it now," Cerezo said.
"We can continue to complain, but we have to move on and start thinking about our next game."
Atletico travel to the Reyno de Navarro stadium buoyed by their Anfield performance which comes on the heels of two improved performances in the league to have 13 points.
Czech defender Tomas Ujfalusi could return after several weeks out to injury.
"We're playing well, we're always very concentrated on the match at hand and the moment has arrived to put together some good results," midfielder Maniche said.
"If we play as we did against Liverpool, Atletico will have a chance in every competition."
In Sunday's other 10th round of Spanish league games, it is: Mallorca vs. Athletic Bilbao; Deportivo La Coruna vs. Espanyol; Numancia vs. Real Betis; Racing Santander vs. Sporting Gijon; and Sevilla vs. Recreativo Huelva.