La Liga: Summit-seeking Atletico Madrid aiming to pile pressure on Barcelona
Atletico Madrid can go ahead of Barcelona at the top of the Primera Division this weekend, even if it is only briefly.
Last Updated: 20/12/13 11:05am
The Rojiblancos are currently tied with Barcelona for first place but can get the drop on the Catalans, who visit Getafe on Sunday, by earning a single point against Levante at the Vicente Calderon nearly 24 hours earlier.
Atletico have won three league games in a row - they have lost only once this season - and further demonstrated their trophy-winning credentials when coming from behind to beat Sant Andreu in the Copa del Rey in midweek.
It was a feat that thoroughly impressed their Argentinian boss and he told the club's official website: "I am delighted by the response of the players and all the commitment they have shown. They demonstrate it week after week.
"Atletico fans will be very happy about the players' commitment, they share the same ideas and when people are united with the same ideas it is very difficult to compete with them."
Should the Madrid club pull away three points clear at the top with victory on Saturday then Barca will need to beat Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, something they have managed to do four times from five recent visits.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, are five points off the pace and travel to Valencia ahead of Nico Estevez's first game in the Mestalla dugout.
With Los Che nosediving in La Liga, Miroslav Djukic was finally sacked this week to leave youth coach Estevez in interim charge, and Real midfielder Asier Illarramendi is determined to hand the rookie coach a nightmare debut.
"We cannot slip up any more in the league, so we have to win in Valencia," he said. "But every team that plays against Real Madrid are highly motivated and give more than 100 per cent."
Fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao host struggling Rayo Vallecano on Sunday and have Villarreal breathing down their necks.
The Yellow Submarine could move into fourth on Saturday, should they beat shell-shocked Sevilla at El Madrigal.
The Andalusians were the biggest scalp claimed in this week's Copa del Rey games, as third-tier Racing Santander pulled off a shock away win to reach the last 16.
There is a relegation battle at Real Betis' Benito Villamarin home where the league's bottom side will be focused on dragging 18th-placed Almeria deeper into the mire.
In mid-table Espanyol tackle Real Valladolid in Barcelona while Osasuna look to pull clear of the bottom three with a positive result at Celta Vigo.
Granada entertain European hopefuls Real Sociedad and on Friday night Elche play host to Malaga at the Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.