RONALDO RISK FOR REAL
Real Madrid will look to take another step towards reclaiming the Primera Division title this weekend, but will do so knowing that star man Cristiano Ronaldo is walking a disciplinary tightrope.
Wednesday night's 4-1 win at rivals Atletico helped them restore their four-point lead at the top over reigning champions Barcelona, with the April 21 meeting between the two looming large and seemingly gaining added significance with every passing day.
Madrid face a home meeting with Sporting Gijon before that, though, but know that should Ronaldo pick up a yellow card, he would miss 'El Clasico' through suspension.
His hat-trick on Wednesday night took him to 40 league goals for the season - he has 51 in total - and Madrid can ill afford to lose him for what could be a title decider.
"The team is in good form, confident and ready for its next game," Ronaldo told www.realmadrid.com.
"I've been one booking short of a suspension for two months, but I'm behaving myself."
Wednesday 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 Madrid's clash with Gijon appears to be a home banker, Barca are faced with a tougher-looking assignment away at Levante.
The Valencia club are fifth and still in the hunt for a Champions League spot and Barcelona's players have been left in no doubt as to how important their remaining fixtures are.
Manager Pep Guardiola has ordered them to treat every domestic fixture as though it were a cup final, and winger Pedro told his club's official 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, focussing 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 place Valencia hoping 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 official website.
"It (Osasuna) was a shame because it was a good opportunity to reduce the distance with the rest of the teams."
Malaga, in action on Thursday night 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 on Thursday night, head to Villarreal - the Yellow Submarine 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 Athletico Madrid are on the same tally and face Rayo Vallecano.
Two more sides fighting for a 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 on Thursday night.
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