Preview: Madrid derby key game in Matchday 26 as Barca visit Pamplona

2021-03-04 13:05:54 GMT2021-03-04 21:05:54(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

MADRID, March 4 (Xinhua) -- There is no doubt over which is the most important game of Matchday 26 in La Liga when league leaders Atletico Madrid entertain second-placed Real Madrid on Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend's results saw Atletico reopen their lead at the top of the table to five points and with a game in hand after they produced a convincing win away to Villarreal, while Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Real Sociedad.

If Atletico beat their neighbors, it would just about end Real Madrid's title challenge, while three points for Real would keep them very much in the race.

Kieran Trippier is available again for Atletico after his 10-week suspension, but may need time to get fully match fit, while Yannick Carrasco has also recovered from injury.

Real Madrid are still without Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard, but striker Karim Benzema is back to add more bite to what has been a relatively toothless attack without him.

There is plenty of drama to be played out before Sunday's vital match, starting with the east-coast derby which sees Villarreal entertain Valencia.

Villarreal need to end a seven-game winless run that has seen them drop below Betis into sixth place, while Valencia (and their coach Javi Gracia) are still in trouble after losing 3-0 to Getafe last weekend.

Getafe travel to Valladolid on Saturday lunchtime looking to build on that win against a rival that climbed out of the bottom four a week ago.

Second from bottom Elche need to take advantage of Sevilla, whose morale must have fallen to rock bottom after losing their Copa del Rey semi-final return leg 3-0 to Barcelona on Wednesday, just five days after Barca also seemingly ended their league options.

Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui has the minor consolation of having winger Lucas Ocampos available after his recovery from an ankle injury.

Cadiz play Eibar at the same time in a key battle between two sides in the relegation dogfight with Cadiz looking to end a run of seven games without a win, while Eibar haven't won in their last eight matches.

Saturday ends with Barcelona travelling to play Osasuna aiming to keep the pressure on both Atletico and Real Madrid. Barca's players will be euphoric after their Cup fightback, although Ousmane Dembele looks likely to miss out with a calf injury while Ronald Koeman may meditate resting Gerard Pique after his busy three weeks back in action.

A constantly improving Huesca entertain Celta Vigo on Sunday lunchtime, before Real Sociedad take on Levante.

Levante could have tired legs after their Copa del Rey semifinal against Athletic Club on Thursday, but could have central defender Helder Postigo available again after injury.

Athletic Club are at home to Granada and a win for either would all but ensure their top-flight future for next season. Athletic will be without the suspended Inigo Martinez after he was given a draconian 4-game ban for an incident in the league game against Levante a week ago

The round of matches ends on Monday with Betis aiming to consolidate themselves in the European placings at home to Alaves.

Last weekend's defeat to Osasuna saw Alaves drop into the bottom three after a run of just one win in eight games and unless they can react, coach Abelardo Fernandez could be in danger given the club's history of sacking coaches on a regular basis. Enditem