The race for the Spanish BBVA Primera Liga title continues with no time for rest in the 35th round of games this weekend.
The midweek games in the 34th round finished on Thursday, but with Atletico and Real Madrid in Champions League action next week, there is hardly time to draw breath before continuing their title challenge.
Second placed Atletico will briefly go top of the table on Saturday if they win at home to a Malaga side which is in a comfortable mid-table position with no chance of either qualifying for Europe nor of being relegated.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone recovered Gabi Fernandez who was suspended for Wednesday’s hard-fought win in Bilbao, but loses central defender Diego Godin with a hamstring injury, which he suffered in the same game.
Gareth Bale should be fit, but there is a doubt over Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid travel to the south of the Spanish capital to take on Rayo Vallecano on Saturday afternoon.
Ronaldo left the pitch at the end of his side’s win over Villarreal on Wednesday with a hamstring problem and despite his desire to play every minute of every game, Zinedine Zidane warned after that game that the striker needs to rest.
League leaders Barcelona could well be in third place when they kick off against Sporting Gijon, but have regained confidence following their 8-0 win away to Deportivo la Coruna during the week.
With Barca out of Europe and Gerard Pique back after suspension, Luis Enrique will field his strongest side against a spirited but limited Sporting, who slipped back into the bottom three on Thursday despite a heroic 2-1 win at home to Sevilla.
Luis Suarez scored four goals and set up three against Deportivo and made it clear “it has not entered our head we could lose the league title”.
The weekend’s other games see Eibar, who were rocked on Thursday by the news that President Alex Aranzabal is leaving the club at the end of the season, at home to Deportivo.
Levante have to pick themselves up from a 5-1 thrashing in Granada and defeat fifth placed Athletic Club Bilbao to have any chance of avoiding relegation, while the Seville derby between Sevilla and Betis promises fireworks, especially after Sevilla defender Adil Rami posted a ‘tweet’ mocking Sevilla’s rivals on Thursday.
Getafe ended a 12 game run without a win on Thursday, but need to defeat a resurgent Valencia in order to escape the drop zone, while Villarreal will move a step closer to assuring a place in the Champions League if they can defeat Real Sociedad, before Celta and Granada end the round of games on Monday.