Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso believes his side still have every chance of claiming the Spanish La Liga title this year despite falling into third place with just seven games remaining. Los Blancos' city rivals Atletico Madrid lead the way on 76 points, one ahead of Barcelona in second with Real a further two points behind the Catalans.
Things are further complicated for Carlo Ancelotti's men because they have an inferior head-to-head record against both Atletico and Barça meaning they can't afford to even finish level on points with either of their title rivals. Two defeats in consecutive games to Barcelona and Sevilla last month have cost Real dearly, but they have bounced back with two comprehensive wins over Rayo Vallecano and Borussia Dortmund and Alonso is hoping there will be more surprises to come in the final few weeks of the season.
"The teams that beat us were in great form, we didn't play well in two games and we committed errors that we paid very heavily for," he told his club's official website. "In the league we have lost the advantage that we had, but we need to keep fighting because there could be surprises. My personal performance is tied to the team. It was not good news for us, but that is football. We were behind before and we came back."
Madrid face arguably their most difficult league game remaining this season when they travel to face UEFA Champions League chasing Real Sociedad on Saturday and, as a former Sociedad player, Alonso knows what to expect in San Sebastian.
"Anoeta is always difficult," Alonso explained. "They have had two seasons playing well and enjoying great results so the fans are thrilled with the team. We need to recover as quickly as possible because it will be a difficult game and we can't do anything other than win."
Cristiano Ronaldo was forced off towards the end of Real's 3-0 win over Dortmund on Wednesday due to a slight knee injury, but Alonso is confident he will be fit to start against Sociedad. "Cristiano did the right thing in coming off as a precaution, but I don't think he will have any problems in playing on Saturday. Today he trained normally with the team."
Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have more serious injury problems to overcome as they host Villarreal and Real Betis respectively on Saturday. Barça defender Gerard Pique will miss the next four weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right hip during the Catalans 1-1 draw against Atletico in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Gerardo Martino will therefore be pressed into pairing Marc Bartra alongside Javier Mascherano for the a crucial period that will encompass the title run-in as well as the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid and the return leg away to Atletico on Wednesday.
Martino is expected to rotate his squad for the visit of Betis with Alex Song, Adriano, Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez set to feature. Atletico's top scorer Diego Costa will be also sidelined this weekend due to a hamstring problem he picked up against Barca, despite the injury not being as serious as first feared.
Arda Turan could also be missing for Diego Simeone's men as continues to be plagued by a sports hernia, whilst captain Gabi is suspended. It is also another important weekend at the foot of the table as nine teams are separated by just six points in the bottom half. Six of those sides go head-to-head as Rayo Vallecano host Celta Vigo, Granada travel to Malaga in an Andalusian derby and Elche welcome Getafe.
Spanish La Liga Fixtures
Friday, 4 April
Almeria v Osasuna
Saturday, 5 April
Sunday, 6 April
Malaga v Granada
Elche v Getafe
Sevilla v Espanyol
Valladolid v Valencia
Monday, 7 April
Levante v Athletic Bilbao