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Madrid derby highlight of weekend matches in Spanish league

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Madrid, Nov 18 (IANS) League football returns to Spain following the international break with what could possibly be a season defining game for both Real and Atletico Madrid on Saturday night.

The first Madrid derby of the season sees league leaders Real visit the Vicente Calderon Stadium for the first time since their dramatic win over Atletico Madrid on penalties in the Champions League final, reports Xinhua.

Despite criticism of their performance, Real Madrid have a six point lead over their neighbours, who know defeat would virtually mean the end of this season's title challenge.

Diego Simeone's side will be at virtually full strength as forward Antoine Griezmann has recovered from the foot injury he suffered on international duty. But Real Madrid have lost Alvaro Morata with a hamstring injury and although Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric should be able to start, Tony Kroos is also sidelined.

Real Madrid players Pepe, Karim Benzema and Casemiro are also doubtful due to injuries.

If the game needed any further emotion, it will be the last league derby between the two sides in the Calderon as Atletico prepare to move to their new ground at the start of next season.

FC Barcelona have a magnificent chance to put the pressure on both their title rivals when they take on Malaga earlier on Saturday afternoon. Andres Iniesta is still sidelined for the Catalans and Samuel Umtiti has a muscle problem, but Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba should be able to return following their injury lay-offs to give a timely boost to Luis Enrique's men.

A win for Barca against an improving Malaga would momentarily take them top of the table and mean Real Madrid would need to win in the Calderon in order to maintain the leadership.

However, Deportivo la Coruna, who will face high-flying Sevilla in Saturday's early kick off, are in trouble.

Deportivo are struggling for goals, while Sevilla, despite having the same number of points as Atletico Madrid, have only one league win away from home in the last 16 months.

A loss on Saturday could cost Deportivo coach Gaizka Garitano his job.

Eibar and Celta also play on Saturday, before Sunday kicks off with Espanyol's visit to play Alaves. Alaves took three vital points from Osasuna before the international break, but have only one home win all season, while Espanyol's two wins have both come on the road.

Valencia will hope to get back to winning ways at home to rock bottom of the table Granada,, while third from bottom Sporting Gijon have a tough game at home to in-form Real Sociedad before Sunday's best game sees Athletic Club Bilbao entertain Villarreal.

Third placed Villarreal have lost just once all season and are unbeaten in seven of their last 10 visits to Bilbao, while the home side, who recover Mikel San Jose, Aymeric Laporte and Benat after injury, will look to veteran striker Aritz Aduriz, who has scored 10 goals against Sunday's rivals, to lead them to victory.

--IANS

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