Real Madrid and Barcelona both dropped two points at the weekend but still managed to move a point closer to La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, who suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Levante on Sunday evening.
It meant the Catalans maneuvered within three points of top spot, while Madrid closed the gap to five points.
On Wednesday night Carlo Ancelotti’s side play their game in hand against Real Valladolid knowing that a win will move them just two points behind their neighbours with two games to play.
Their trip to the Estadio Jose Zorrilla won’t be easy though. Barcelona have already fallen foul there this season, beaten 1-0 in March, while Juan Ignacio Martinez’s side are entangled in a relegation scrap at the bottom of the table.
It is a “final” for both clubs, as Ancelotti put it in his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, per Spanish publication Marca.
If Madrid fail to register three points then the Italian acknowledged that they will have gone bust in the title race, while he also pointed out that Valladolid are desperate for the points, too—they are currently second bottom but just four points separate 14th from 19th.
To keep themselves in the title race, Madrid will have to win without the services of Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale, although Ancelotti did confirm that Cristiano Ronaldo, despite being tired, will be fine to take part, per AS:
Cristiano is fine, but a little tired. He only took part in a section of the training session. He’s available for Valladolid. [Dani] Carvajal is struggling and is unavailable, and [Gareth] Bale has a knock and is out.
With Alvaro Arbeloa also still sidelined, Carvajal’s absence could mean a chance for Nacho Fernandez to come into the side on the right of the back four.
In the middle Pepe should return, having been rested for the Valencia match, to partner Sergio Ramos, who has now scored four goals in his last three appearances.
Marcelo returned to the side that drew with Los Che, taking the place of Fabio Coentrao, who had been in good form, notably in the Champions League clashes with Bayern Munich. Either could start at left-back.
Behind the defenders, Ancelotti has already revealed that Iker Casillas will start against Valladolid and then against Espanyol on the final day of the season, per Goal.com—it will be his first appearance in the Primera Division since January 2013.
Luka Modric has returned to training and could feature in Los Blancos’ starting XI in place of Asier Illarramendi, forming a midfield three with Xabi Alonso and, with Angel Di Maria a candidate for Bale’s position, Isco.
If the Croatian isn’t deemed fit enough to start, though, Illarramendi, who Ancelotti admitted had a poor game against Valencia, per Marca, could retain his place.
However, the former PSG, Chelsea and Milan coach did suggest Sami Khedira may be involved at some point, too.
Across the front three Di Maria is the favourite to start on the left, while Karim Benzema and Ronaldo should complete Madrid’s three-pronged attack.
Possible Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Isco; Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo