Barça, Real continue race for La Liga
Last night's 4-1 win at rivals Atletico helped them restore their four-point lead at the top over reigning champions Barcelona, with the 21 April meeting between the two looming large and seemingly gaining added significance with every passing day.
Real face a home meeting with Sporting Gijon before that, though, but know that should Ronaldo pick up a yellow card he would miss El Clásico through suspension. His hat-trick last night took him to 40 league goals for the season, while he has 51 in total, and Real can ill afford to lose him for what could be a title decider.
Last night's clash with Atletico was viewed as a major hurdle for Jose Mourinho's men but, thanks to Ronaldo, it was cleared with some ease. "We were a little tense because Barcelona won on Tuesday and we were forced to win, so mission accomplished. We have to win our remaining games to increase our chances of winning the title," he added.
While Real's clash with Sporting appears to be a home banker, Barça are faced with a tougher-looking assignment away at Levante. The Valencia club are fifth and still in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League spot, and Barcelona's players have been left in no doubt as to how important their remaining fixtures are.
Coach Pep Guardiola has ordered them to treat every domestic fixture as though it were a cup final, and winger Pedro told his club's website: "We are playing very well as a team and we are really on a roll.
"We've just taken each game at a time, focusing on ourselves and knowing we couldn`t slip up. We have to be concentrated on the match and nothing else, that's what Guardiola told us. Right now every one of the six games left will be like a final. But it's going to be very hard to overtake them."
Espanyol take on third-placed Valencia aiming to get their European hopes back on track. They were beaten 2-0 by Osasuna on Tuesday and are currently eighth in the table, some four points off the pace.
For goalkeeper Kiki Casilla, though, the chance is still alive. "I hope that in the end we can be the best," he told his club's website. "It [the result against Osasuna] was a shame because it was a good opportunity to reduce the distance with the rest of the teams."
Malaga, in action tonight against Villarreal, could make a serious move to make third place and a Champions League spot by getting the better of Real Sociedad.
Bottom club Racing Santander, also playing tonight, head to Villarreal, who could move themselves clear of relegation danger with a win, while Real Zaragoza could suck Granada into a dogfight by getting the better of them at La Romareda.
Osasuna harbour top-six hopes, they currently occupy the final spot, and take them to Real Betis, as do Athletic Bilbao, who are at home to Mallorca. Osasuna are on 46 points, four clear of the Basque club, while Atletico Madrid are on the same tally and face Rayo Vallecano.
Two more sides fighting for a UEFA Europa League spot in a congested mid-region are also in action, with Getafe meeting Sevilla. They too are on 42 points, although Sevilla could steal a march by beating Zaragoza tonight.