Still reeling from their painful derby defeat at Barcelona in 'El Clasico', Real Madrid will hope for some home comfort on Saturday when they entertain Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real claimed a moral victory from the Barcelona loss with many citing it as their best display of the season. However was Barcelona who took the points and the Catalans now lead their rivals by five points after winning 2-0 at Xerez in Wednesday's rescheduled match.
"We showed we were at Barcelona's level at Camp Nou and this is the path we want to follow," said Real defender Pepe. "We didn't come away with any points but took lots of confidence.
"We are going to fight for the title right until the death because both sides will drop points. The important thing is to be strong physically and mentally right until the end."
Almeria coach Hugo Sanchez, the former Mexico star, won five league titles as a Real Madrid player and is likely to field a defensive line-up in a bid to frustrate his former employers. Real have struggled to take the game to opponents this season, although the return of Cristiano Ronaldo will certainly help and the Portuguese sensation is expected to play more than the hour he managed against Barcelona.
Barcelona are still unbeaten in the league this season but face a tough trip to high-flying Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday in what is their third game in a week. The champions had to dig deep to defeat Xerez in a match brought forward due to their participation in the FIFA World Club Cup in mid-December.
"We have five games left before Christmas and a lot to play for," said coach Pep Guardiola. "We had to take a step forward because we start on Saturday against one of the best teams in the league."
The recovering Lionel Messi, buoyant after winning the Ballon D'or, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were second-half substitutes against Xerez but could return to the starting line-up at the Riazor stadium. Ibrahimovic followed up his winner against Real by coming off the bench again to score a delightful chip against Xerez and is the club's top scorer with nine goals.
Depor are going strong in fifth and Brazilian left-back Filipe Luis faces Barcelona for the first time since they tried to sign him in the summer, with the move collapsing over what Guardiola felt was an inflated transfer fee. "A lot of people think I want to prove something to Barcelona but I have nothing to prove," said Luis. "They brought in my friend and a top player in Maxwell. He is happy there and I am happy here."
Sevilla, who were drawn against holders Barcelona in the King's Cup, are seven points off the top of the table with a game in hand and host Valladolid on Saturday. Valencia are on the up but have a tough trip to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and must do without Spanish international midfielder David Silva, who is out until the New Year with a knee injury.
Valencia are fourth, three points behind second-placed Real, after going 14 games unbeaten in all competitions. Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores will hope his side build on their 4-0 win over Espanyol and continue to move away from the relegation zone when they travel to basement boys Xerez.