La Liga leaders Real Madrid will look to continue their sparkling form with a record-equalling 18th consecutive victory in all competitions as they host Celta Vigo on Saturday.
The European champions surpassed their previous club record of 15 straight wins with victory over Malaga last weekend and, following a 5-0 Copa del Rey thrashing of Cornella in midweek, Los Blancos now have Barcelona’s Spanish record stretch of 18 victories from the 2005/06 season in their sights.
Madrid have now scored 64 goals on their winning streak, conceding only nine, but they know they will face a stern test against a Celta side that took all three points at the Camp Nou last month and secured a draw away to Atletico Madrid in September.
James Rodriguez’s double against third-tier outfit Cornella meant that he is the only Madrid player to score in four competitions this season and his impressive start to life in the Spanish capital has not been lost on manager Carlo Ancelotti.
“He is demonstrating his quality and showing great attitude during this period. We are delighted with him and he’ll definitely improve,” the Italian said. “I really like his attitude because he is humble and that is important. Having a humble player with his quality is a perfect ingredient for the team.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was given a rare night off on Tuesday, but the FIFA World Player of the Year will return looking to continue his lethal form in front of goal, having netted 20 goals in just 12 league appearances thus far.
Jese Rodriguez, who made his comeback from a nine-month injury layoff in midweek, could also feature in La Liga for the first time this season, while Sami Khedira, who was forced off with concussion, should also be fit.
Barcelona host Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Sunday as they look to keep pace at the top of the table and build on their run of six successive victories. Andres Iniesta, who had not featured since limping off in the 3-1 Clasico reverse in October, made his comeback as the Blaugrana swept aside Huesca 4-0 on Wednesday evening in the Copa del Rey, scoring his first goal in eight months in the process.
“It’s never easy to come back after so long, but I felt fine and that’s the most important thing. I was able to play without feeling any trouble and that’s calmed me down a lot,” said the Spain midfielder.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets will all return having sat out the trip to Aragon, while Claudio Bravo is expected to start in goal.
Champions Atletico Madrid can, temporarily at least, leapfrog Barcelona as they travel to struggling Elche on Saturday. Back-to-back home wins over Malaga and Deportivo have seen the champions remain in contention to retain their title, four points behind city rivals Real, but their indifferent away form this season will be put to the test at the Martinez Valero.
After struggling to break down a resilient L’Hospitalet side in the first half in cup action on Wednesday, the introduction of Antoine Griezmann at the break provided the spark that Diego Simeone’s side needed as they went on to seal a comfortable 3-0 victory and almost certainly set up a Madrid derby in the last 16.
Simeone, who was shortlisted for the FIFA World Coach of the Year award earlier this week, used the opportunity to give some of his fringe players a run out, and the performances of both Griezmann and Alessio Cerci will give the Argentine food for thought regarding his team selection.
Spanish La Liga fixtures
Elche v Atletico Madrid
Athletic Bilbao v Cordoba
Real Madrid v Celta Vigo
Deportivo La Coruna v Malaga
Rayo Vallecano v Sevilla
Barcelona v Espanyol
Villarreal v Real Sociedad
Granada v Valencia
Eibar v Almeria
Levante v Getafe