Sunday’s Madrid Derby Will Define The LaLiga Title Race
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MADRID - LaLiga leaders Atlético Madrid host neighbors Real Madrid on Sunday in a potentially pivotal game in the title race.
Real sit third, level on 53 points with Barcelona and five behind Atlético who have a game in hand on their rivals.
Zinedine Zidane's side dropped points on Monday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Real Sociedad and another slip-up could prove fatal in the bid to retain their crown.
"We need to remain calm and show patience, too," Zidane said. "This (Sociedad) result won't affect how we prepare for the derby. We need to go there and play a really good game. All sides are losing points, and we know that we have to go there and get something. There's still a long way to go in the title race."
Atlético, without a Liga derby win since 2016, welcome Kieran Trippier back to the first team squad after a 10-week suspension for violating betting rules in England. Yannick Carrasco also returns after a leg injury, while José María Giménez and Thomas Lemar will face late fitness tests.
Zidane has said French forward Karim Benzema could be fit, however captain Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard and Dani Carvajal will all miss the trip across the Spanish capital.
Barcelona, meanwhile, can put the pressure on both Madrid outfits when they visit Osasuna in Saturday's late game. Fresh from a dramatic Copa del Rey semifinal comeback win over Sevilla, the Catalans, who have not lost in LaLiga since December, will be full of confidence that they can mount a challenge in the title race.
The weekend's action gets underway with Valencia hosting neighbors Villarreal in the Valencian Community derby, and concludes with Alavés's trip to Real Betis on Monday.
(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Ken Ferris)