Atletico Madrid will put their Spanish title hopes on the line when they host league leaders Real Madrid on Sunday.
Real, ahead by three points, have looked unstoppable lately, stretching an unbeaten run to 27 games in all competitions following Wednesday's 6-1 rout of Schalke.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are supplying the goals while goalkeepers Diego Lopez and Iker Casillas have shown no fatigue sharing the duties between three competitions.
"Our three forwards are so dangerous in attack," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "(Schalke) might have been Bale's best game of the season, he's showing a lot more confidence in his play."
The three forwards have combined to score 70 goals in all competitions to make Madrid the title favourites.
A full week without football might be just the rest Atletico's players needed as their title charge has hit a bit of a slump.
Atletico lost at Osasuna 3-0 to slip three points behind Madrid and another loss will all but keep them from breaking a Madrid-Barcelona monopoly on the league that has lasted a decade.
"We know how important the derby is," Atletico striker Diego Costa said. "If we lose, winning the league will be much more difficult. But I don't think we ever thought of ourselves as title contenders."
Atletico have lost twice in three games since topping the league for the first time since 1996.
meanwhile, despite a poor effort in losing at Sociedad 3-1 last weekend, Barcelona will likely look forward to Almeria's visit following all the recent scrutiny because of Neymar's transfer drama.
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has been under pressure, too, and the Argentine will be absent from the touchline at the Camp Nou due to a ban.
"We're training hard. Because of Saturday's loss we're all upset with ourselves," said Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who did not play at Sociedad. "We know it's the moment of truth, we can't afford any more slip-ups."
Barcelona have never lost in 11 meetings with Almeria, winning nine of those by a combined score of 31-1.
With Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico looking almost certain to finish in the top three, that leaves one qualifying place left for next year's Champions League.
Athletic Bilbao have held fourth place for a good chunk of the season, with Sociedad and Villarreal only four points behind the Basques.
Athletic host Granada on Friday, which means Sociedad will go to Sevilla and Villarreal will welcome last-placed Real Betis on Sunday knowing exactly what results they will need to keep up the chase.
"We're involved in a really tough fight, against very difficult rivals who show they won't allow any type of advantage," Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo said.
http://ift.tt/1eAGv4N via ukbettips.co.uk http://ift.tt/1hlERsV