Real Madrid will look to stay in the La Liga title hunt when they take on bottom-feeders Almeria on Saturday at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Blancos have recovered nicely from back-to-back losses against Barcelona and Sevilla, recording dominant wins over Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad to keep the distance with league-leaders Atletico Madrid at a mere three points.
With La Blaugrana also still in the mix, the race for La Liga looks to be coming down to the wire, and dropping points to any of the lesser teams in the competition is something none of the title contenders can afford.
Almeria are six matches away from relegation, but one single league win could turn the bottom of the table on its head, and two points would be enough to virtually save the visitors at this point. Winning those points at the Bernabeu is a tough task, but Almeria won't just roll over and gift Real the points either.
Date: Saturday, April 12
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
Venue: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
TV info and live stream: The match will be broadcast on Sky Sports 2, with mobile coverage available via the Sky Go app.
The big news coming out of Madrid ahead of this matchup is, of course, the injury to star winger Cristiano Ronaldo, as shared by AS:
BREAKING: Cristiano will miss Wednesday's Copa del Rey final after suffering a thigh muscle tear. He faces 15 days on the sidelines.— AS English (@English_AS) April 10, 2014
The Portuguese star and Ballon d'Or winner didn't see any action during Real's UEFA Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund despite his team struggling for much of the tie, and now we know why. The reported thigh muscle tear could keep Ronaldo out for weeks, so the player will most certainly not be playing against Almeria.
But according to WhoScored.com, that might not be such a big problem. While Ronaldo has once again been one of the top players in the world this season, scoring almost at will, the rest of his Real teammates have outscored 17 of the league's remaining 19 teams.
Visitors Almeria, meanwhile, have conceded 60 times, the third-worst mark in La Liga. With Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale expected to be fit and Angel Di Maria most likely replacing Ronaldo on the wing, Los Blancos shouldn't have any problems scoring in this match.
Via Selecao Brasileira, Marca is reporting Brazilian wing-back Marcelo could also be returning for the hosts and could be given some minutes ahead of Real's midweek Copa del Rey final against Barcelona:
Marcelo has passed his recent medical test. It is possible that he plays a few minutes against Almeria, ahead of the CdR final. [Marca]— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats) April 10, 2014
Almeria are winless against Real since 2008, per footballzz.co.uk, and have never so much as gained a point at the Bernabeu. In dire need of any kind of result, the task at hand seems almost impossible for the visitors.
With five matches remaining after the encounter with Real, there will be plenty of chances left for Almeria to avoid the drop, with the most notable being the pivotal matchup against Granada.
Real can't afford to drop any points at this stage, but with the Copa del Rey final just around the corner, complacency could be a factor. On talent alone, this match shouldn't even be close, and if history is any indication, it won't be either.
Prediction: Real 4-0 Almeria