Matchday 34 Preview: Real Madrid look to edge closer to the La Liga title

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Real Madrid have moved to the top of the La Liga Santander standings since the restart following the Covid-19 enforced break, but Zinedine Zidane’s team could face their stiffest challenge since the return when they travel north to face Athletic Club on Sunday afternoon. Both these teams' last La Liga meetings at San Mames have been draws, while their clash at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season also finished all square.

Three draws in their last four La Liga games has seen Barcelona lose their advantage at the top, so Lionel Messi and company will be going all out for victory at Villarreal on Sunday evening. This fixture ended 4-4 last season, and more drama is very likely this time again.

The weekend kicks off Friday evening with Atletico Madrid at home to Real Mallorca. Atleti are still well set for third place after Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou, while Mallorca remain in the bottom three but got a big confidence boost with their 5-1 midweek win over Celta Vigo.

That result will have focused minds at Celta that they are still not safe from the drop, so the Galicians will be aiming for three points on Saturday afternoon at home to a Real Betis team with just one win away from home all season in La Liga Santander.

Real Valladolid and Deportivo Alaves are also not yet mathematically safe from relegation, so will want to continue their good form since the restart when they meet at the Jose Zorrilla later Saturday. Alaves have won all four of the most recent meetings between these teams, including a 3-0 when they met last November.

Granada and Valencia have both seen their hopes of playing European football next season hit by recent poor form, but three points when they meet on Saturday evening would get them back on track. Valencia, who parted ways with coach Albert Celades this week, have won three and drawn one of their last four visits to the Nuevo de Los Carmenes.

Espanyol against Leganes on Sunday afternoon is a huge relegation six-pointer, with both teams in danger of losing sight of the sides above the bottom three. Leganes won their reverse meeting 2-0 in December in southern Madrid.

Osasuna at home to Getafe brings together two teams who have over-achieved so far this season, and still have plenty to fight for. The visitors will be looking to improve on their poor recent record at El Sadar, where they have not scored on any of their last five La Liga visits.

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Monday evening has Levante hosting Real Sociedad. The home side got their first La Liga win at their temporary home at La Nucia in their last home game against Betis, while fitness problems for super-influential Norwegian playmaker Martin Odegaard has really hurt La Real since La Liga returned.

Sevilla strengthened their grip on fourth place with a 3-0 win at Leganes midweek, and Julen Lopetegui’s side can move closer to sealing Champions League qualification with a win on Monday at home to Eibar. This fixture promises goals - with 19 across their last five La Liga meetings, including the Basque side’s 3-2 victory when they last met in September.

Watch La Liga Santander live this weekend on SuperSport 7 and GOtv’s SuperSport Select