La Liga Preview: Atletico, Barca out to put pressure on Real
By Football News
Atletico Madrid and Barcelona can both heap pressure on Real Madrid as the three-way race for the La Liga title enters its final month.
Real, currently second and sandwiched between Atletico and Barca, have had their fixture with Real Vallodolid postponed due to their commitments in the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League.
That game will now take place on May 6, meaning leaders Atleti can move six points clear at the top - for 48 hours at least - with victory over 15th-placed Elche on Friday.
Diego Simeone's men are La Liga's form side at present, with a run of seven consecutive wins - during which they have conceded just once - putting them in pole position for a first top-flight crown since 1996.
Their Liga record at the Vicente Calderon is near-perfect this season, with 14 wins and three draws from their 17 home games, but they may have to manage without Diego Costa, who has scored 26 league goals this season.
The talismanic striker sustained a nasty cut to his left leg when colliding with the post while scoring the second goal in their 2-0 win at Getafe last Sunday.
Praying for wobble from the leaders are champions Barca, who sit three points adrift in second and must recover from the disappointment of losing the Copa final to fierce rivals Real on Wednesday just a week after being knocked out of the Champions League by Atleti.
Gerardo Martino's team fell to a surprise 1-0 Liga defeat at Granada in between those defeats, and they face another stiff test on Sunday, with Champions League hopefuls Athletic Bilbao visiting Camp Nou aiming to increase their prospects of a top-four finish.
They currently occupy the all-important fourth spot, and hold a six-point lead over fifth-placed Sevilla, who are at home to what is sure to be a buoyant Granada outfit on Sunday.
A run of two wins from eight league matches looks to have ended Villarreal's chances of qualifying for Europe's premier club competition, with Marcelino's charges now facing a battle to earn a UEFA Europa League berth.
They visit Malaga on Monday, but may have already been usurped in the top six by that point by Real Sociedad, who host Espanyol two days earlier.
At the wrong end of the table, Valladolid's inactivity means bottom-placed Real Betis' relegation cannot be confirmed this weekend, regardless of their result when they travel to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
The two teams above them in the drop zone, Almeria and Getafe, take on Celta Vigo and Levante respectively while elsewhere, 16th-placed Osasuna entertain Valencia.