La Liga’s Matchday 26 crucial for title race

Madrid, Feb 22 (UNI) The 26th round of games in La Liga could serve to show whether the remainder of the season will see a realistic race for the title, or if leaders Real Madrid have an obstructed run into the end of the campaign.

Last weekend’s results saw Carlo Ancelotti’s men drop two points away to Rayo Vallecano. Although Girona were unable to close the gap to three points as they lost away to Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona’s win in Vigo took them to within eight points of the top of the table.

Eight points are still a considerable margin, especially considering that Real Madrid don’t slip up very often, so it is vital for Barcelona to win Saturday’s game at home against Getafe.

Barca go into the game after a 1-1 draw in Napoli in the Champions League, with a slightly improved performance than that in recent weeks.

Xavi will probably rest a midfielder and bring Raphinha back against rivals that are rock solid in defense and have the top-scoring Spaniard in their side in Borja Mayoral.

Atletico Madrid are 11 points behind Real Madrid, but could also close the gap when they visit bottom of the table, and still winless, Almeria. Diego Simeone’s side had a tough 1-0 defeat in the Champions League away to Inter Milan, where they lost Antoine Griezmann and Jose Gimenez to injury.

Atletico also have to think about next Thursday’s Copa del Rey semifinal return leg when they seek

to overturn a 1-0 first leg defeat away to Athletic Bilbao, but it would also be an error to ignore an improved Almeria side who have drawn their last two games.

Real Madrid are still be without the injured Jude Bellingham for their home game against Sevilla. Antonio Rudiger, Eder Militao and David Alaba remain sidelined as well, while Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Carvajal are suspended against a rival that has two wins and a draw from their last three games to climb away from the relegation zone.

Lucas Ocampos returns after injury, while Isaac Romero and Youssef-En Nesyri will be a threat to Madrid’s weakened defense and another Madrid slip-up could allow to open a glimmer of doubt into the title race.

Girona are at home to Rayo Vallecano on Monday and will have coach Michel back in the dugout after he had to watch their recent defeats from the stands due to suspension.

The weekend gets under way on Friday night as Real Sociedad entertain Villarreal.

The home side are sixth and could rotate their squad ahead of next Tuesday’s cup semifinal at home to Mallorca.

Mallorca play on Saturday with a visit to an Alaves side close to assuring their place in the top-flight next season.

Other games on Saturday see second from bottom Granada at home to Valencia, with Granada starting to run out of chances to avoid relegation after last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Almeria.

Sunday kicks off with drama as third bottom Cadiz entertain fourth bottom Celta, with just three points separating the two teams. Mauricio Pellegrino’s arrival as Cadiz coach hasn’t changed the dynamic at the club and they are goalless in his four games in charge and still looking for their first win since September 1st.

Betis have a host of injuries and suspensions for their game at home to Athletic Bilbao, with Isco, Ayoze Perez, Guido Rodriguez, Eze Abde and Marc Bartra injured while Sokratis Marc Roca and Joan Miranda suspended.

Athletic are without Ander Herrera and Inigo Lekue and will have one eye on Thursday’s cup semifinal against Atletico Madrid.

Sunday also sees a mid-table game between Las Palmas and Osasuna, neither of whom are in danger of relegation or with options to qualify for Europe.

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