Madrid, Dec 19 (IANS) Atletico Madrid will look to take advantage of FC Barcelona’s absence and go top of the La Liga if Diego Simeone’s side is able to win away against Malaga, while Real Madrid on Sunday evening need a big win at home against Rayo Vallecano if they are to enjoy a happy Christmas themselves.
Atletico face a side which claimed its first away win with a 2-1 triumph against Rayo Vallecano a week ago but has struggled for most of the campaign after losing key footballers such as Samu Garcia, Samu Castellejo, Juanmi and Darder in the summer, reports Xinhua.
Scoring goals has been a major problem for Malaga, although they have one of the tightest defences in La Liga. They have only scored in only four of the 15 league matches played to date.
These problems were evident when they became the only top-flight side to be knocked out of the Cup by lower league opposition this week, following a 1-0 home defeat against Mirandes.
Atletico in contrast have won their last nine matches, have the tightest defence in Spain and in Antoine Griezmann they have a striker who has scored on his own as many goals as the entire Malaga side has netted during the campaign.
Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez’s Real, who enjoyed their traditional Christmas lunch on Friday, lost away to Villlarreal a week ago and the knives are out once again for the coach despite the support club president Florentino Perez offered on Thursday.
Rayo could be just what the doctor ordered for Real as they travel across town following three straight defeats and with evident problems in a defence which will be missing Diego Llorente, who is on loan from Real.
Paco Jemez has promised his side will play well in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, but their tendency to push up the field leaves space at the back and Sunday could see Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have a field day in front of goal.
Whether that will cure any long-term ills with Real has yet to be seen, but if one result is unlikely on Sunday it is 0-0.
Sunday also sees Athletic Club Bilbao at home against Levante, while fourth placed Celta Vigo look to continue their positive first half to the campaign away against Malaga. Celta will however, be without injured forward Nolito for the match.
The round of matches ends as Real Sociedad look for their third successive home win as the side from San Sebastian entertains high-flying Villarreal.