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Estudiantes Relishing Real Madrid Test

30 March 2007

Estudiantes coach Mariano de Pablos is looking forward to pitting his in form side against ACB leaders Real Madrid this weekend in what promises to be a fiercely-contested local derby.

Estu have won six successive league matches since De Pablos took over the coaching reins from Pedro Martinez last month, climbing out of the bottom four and up to ninth in the standings and the cusp of the play-off places.

That unbeaten run is set to face arguably its sternest test this weekend though when Estu host pacesetters Madrid, but that is exactly what is exciting De Pablos.

"The derby is a test to see whether with these improving results we are able to compete against, until now, the best team in the league," he said.

"It is a test to know at what level we can compete."

Madrid were unstoppable at the start of the season, winning their opening 13 matches - including a 111-93 home victory over Estu.

But Joan Plaza's side have slowed up since then and before last weekend's 99-79 win over Alta Gestion Fuenlabrada they had lost four of their previous five matches.

De Pablos is still under no illusions about how tough Saturday's game is likely to be for his side though, and insists their main goal is simply to do as well as they can.

"We intend to do as well as possible, it is our aim to compete against them at the best of our ability," he said.

"As well as that, it is a game which our fans are waiting for with high hopes and we intend to do our best, and if that means we win, so much the better."

While Estu attempt to get into play-off contention in the ACB, they also have the EuroCup Final Four to look forward to next month.

In that competition Estu will play Spanish rivals Akasvayu Girona in the semi-finals on April 13, with Virtus Bologna and Azovmash Mariupol contesting the other final berth.

Before they return to EuroCup duty though, Estu have league matches against Madrid and Bruesa GBC to play, and De Pablos is focussing his attentions on those games for now.

"We see the Girona game as being quite far away because our situation does not allow us to think of anything apart from the ACB," he said.

"This run of two games can show us a little of where we want to go and what our aspirations are. We want to compete to our maximum and then we can think about Girona."

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